Preventive Health Care for Women Saves Families, Save Lives

Paul Kawata

Health care reform must ensure that all women have access to quality preventive health care, screening and the essential community providers that continue to be the lifeline for many.

Last Thursday, the Senate HELP Committee approved an amendment
to its draft health care reform bill that set the stage to ensure that all women
have access to quality preventive health care, screening and the essential
community providers that continue to be the lifeline for many.

We at the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) believe this amendment –
offered by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) – represents a critical step forward
in helping millions of women access preventive services, like HIV screenings,
to help improve health outcomes and save lives. It also guarantees that all
patients (men, women and children) in any health care gateway have access to
providers like HIV/AIDS clinics, public hospitals, and women’s health centers.

Preventative care is particularly important for women of
color. Often the primary care takers of their families, they tend to put the
needs of their family members and children ahead of their own – to the
detriment of their health. Since 1992, HIV rates among women of color have
risen nearly 10%, with over 80% of all HIV cases among women in this country
occurring among Black and Hispanic women.

These rates are symptomatic of the larger
socio-economic and health disparities found in communities of color in the U.S., which
have been disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began
nearly three decades ago. Together, high rates of poverty and homelessness, as
well as lack of access to education, full employment and health insurance, have
created significant barriers to health care in communities of color. These same
trends often are found in rural America
as well, where health care entities are severely limited, if available at all.
Women in communities of color and rural areas often wait until symptoms of HIV
disease or other illness are fully manifested, forcing them to use their local
hospital emergency rooms for primary care and severely undermining their health
outcomes.

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Women’s Health Amendment would cover women of color’s access to services from
minority faith- and community-based organizations (MF/CBOs), which provide
culturally competent and easily accessible health and HIV/AIDS services in communities
of color throughout the country. Over 4,000 strong, MF/CBOs have saved
countless lives by providing their clients easily accessible health care
services. Supporting their ability to provide a diverse range of services will
encourage women to take advantage of preventative services currently not
included by the Affordable Health Choices Act: cancer screenings, well-women
exams, pre-natal care, pap tests, and other prevention care, while accessing
care for their children and other family members.

We are alarmed to learn that some of our representatives oppose health care
reform. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, UT) and the Family Research Council, among others,
have falsely attacked this amendment as a mandate for abortion coverage. This
amendment covers life-saving preventive care; abortion is not preventive care.
To use a political red herring to attack preventive services that are
desperately needed in this country – particularly by underserved populations,
including the 70 million Americans who lack adequate insurance coverage for the
routine health care that others take for granted, is offensive and
preposterous.
A wide range of groups support protecting patients’ access to essential
community providers, including Families USA, SEIU, Campaign for America’s Future,
Health Care for America Now, American Nurses Association, American Academy of
Nursing, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National
Association of People with AIDS, National Women’s Law Center, and the National
Partnership for Women and Families.

We are calling on all people of conscious to unite around a common purpose:
improving access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans, not
launching inaccurate attacks that reek of old political debates. Call your
member of Congress, write a letter to the editor, blog about this – get the
word out that we will not stand for false accusations, as attempts to derail
desperately needed health care reform.

News Politics

Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

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Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”