Commentary Contraception

Will Obama’s Thanksgiving Gift to Female Voters Be a Tax on Women’s Healthcare?

Jodi Jacobson

Women's groups working to save coverage of women's health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay. The reason? The President thinks he "owes" the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

The first paragraph of this piece was updated at 2:25 pm, Wednesday, November 23, 2011 to clarify that the coverage in question would affect women working for religious and quasi-religious, and “religiously affiiiated” organizations whose primary purpose is to perform or offer non-sectarian services.  The primary purpose of a Catholic University attended by students of all faiths, for example, is education. See the full explanation of the current exemption in this article.

Women’s groups working to save coverage of women’s health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay by so expanding the current exemption for churches that  millions of women who work for organizations affiliated with the Church and other anti-choice groups who claim a religious leaning would be denied coverage.

The reason? The President thinks he “owes” the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.

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Really?  See… I thought this President was elected primarily by the hard work and support of women, Latinos, African Americans, and young people.  And the data back me up.  Young voters and Latinos were credited with giving Obama a “commanding victory” in 2008 and, according to post-election analysis, unmarried women were an “even greater source of support.” From USA Today:

Unmarried women—a group that includes single, separated, divorced, or widowed women—voted for Obama over Republican opponent John McCain by a whopping 70 to 29 percent in yesterday’s election, according to numbers released today by Women’s Voices Women Vote, a nonpartisan organization.

Female voters made up 53 percent of all voters responsible for Obama’s victory in 2008.

Moreover, groups representing many millions of women throughout the country worked tirelessly–exhaustively–for well over a year to support the President’s health reform initiative.  They did this even when women lost benefits in the process, supporting the President and able in the end to point at least to gains in coverage of fundamental preventive care such as birth control without a co-pay as a victory.

Now, a President who doesn’t seem to be able to resist pressure to cave on any number of key policy issues is considering actually further diminishing this victory in a kind of bait and switch–promising women they would not lose coverage, but in fact by caving to the Bishops, taking away coverage millions of women already have.

This is a tax on women.  Birth control without insurance coverage can run as much as $600.00 per year. Without consistent access to birth control, women face constant risk of unintended pregnancy, abrogating their fundamental rights to plan their families and make decisions about how many children to have and when; to decide about their own educational and economic paths; to safeguard their own and their family’s health.  Such a tax will of course fall most heavily on low-income women, and therefore most heavily on Latina, African American, and Native American women who already make up a disproportionate share of this economic group.

This is a tax on women, one many groups expect the President may levy as soon as this weekend… because, you know, a holiday weekend is the best time to engage in an act of capitulation and have it get less press attention.

Women’s groups are urging you to act and act now.

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These groups are asking you to join them in telling the White House not to throw women under the bus:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

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Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter:  @jljacobson

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.