Analysis Abortion

Roe at 39: Celebrate Roe by Taking Action to Ensure Abortion Is Both Legal and Accessible

Amanda Dennis

January 22, 2012, marks the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Reflecting on this, I am reminded of an interview with a woman who, when asked what she thought about the fact that Medicaid would not cover her abortion care said, “I wish women had a right [to Medicaid coverage of abortion]…. I think women should have that option…. There’s a lot of things to having a right to choose.”

For all our coverage of the 29th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, click here.

January 22, 2012, marks the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion, if she so chooses. Reflecting on the anniversary of this landmark case, I am reminded of an interview with a woman from Florida who struggled to pay out-of-pocket for her abortion. When asked what she thought about the fact that Medicaid would not cover her care she said, “I wish women had a right [to Medicaid coverage of abortion]…. I think women should have that option…. There’s a lot of things to having a right to choose.”

One obstacle standing in the way of women’s right to have an abortion is the Hyde Amendment. Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funding for abortion except when a woman is pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or when her pregnancy endangers her life. States have the option of using their own funds to cover abortion in broader circumstances, but few do.

Ibis Reproductive Health has conducted several research studies that evaluate how restrictions on public funding for abortion affect women. Our researchshows that women consistently encounter problems enrolling in Medicaid, trying to use Medicaid to cover qualifying abortion care, and finding a local health care provider that accepts Medicaid. We have also found that women have difficulty accessing accurate information about Medicaid coverage of abortion and that Medicaid staff frequently discourage women from seeking abortion coverage. Because of these difficulties, women are forced to raise their own money for care. They borrow money from friends and family, take out payday loans, delay bill payments, pawn jewelry, and take other drastic measures. This scramble to obtain funding can lead to delays in obtaining timely care or prevent women from obtaining an abortion altogether.

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The fight to restore public funding for abortion has been going on for over 35 years. In that time, women’s health advocates and abortion providers have endured an onslaught of policies aimed at restricting women’s abilities to access abortion. But they have also become adept at removing some of the obstacles in women’s paths. Our research shows that through a range of advocacy, policy, and practice-based strategies, women’s health advocates and abortion providers have developed a number of ways to ensure that eligible women secure timely access to Medicaid coverage of abortion.

We compiled these strategies in the Take Action series – a set of guides that outline actions that advocates and abortion providers can take to help expand women’s access to Medicaid coverage of abortion. The guides also highlight the real-life experiences of women and abortion providers trying to navigate the Medicaid system. In the coming months, Ibis will release two additional Take Action guides for women and policymakers.

It is our hope that documentation of the devastating impact of the Hyde Amendment, as well as evidenced-based strategies for improving the Medicaid system from the ground up, will help ensure that abortion is not only legal, but accessible to all women regardless of their income.

News Law and Policy

Texas’ ‘Fetal Remains’ Rule Could Draw Legal Action

Teddy Wilson

The Center for Reproductive Rights cited statements made by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) soliciting campaign contributions to support his efforts to “establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”

Proposed rules requiring cremation or burial of fetal remains may result in “costly litigation for Texas—litigation state taxpayers can scarcely afford,” the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) said in comments submitted to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

Stephanie Toti, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that if Texas lawmakers continue to interfere with reproductive health care, the organization will take legal action. 

The DSHS quietly proposed new rules that would prohibit abortion providers from disposing of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, and would require that fetal remains be buried or cremated. 

The rules were published July 1 without notice or announcement in the Texas Register.

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The new regulations would apply to all fetal remains regardless of the period of gestation. Under the proposed rules, any other tissue, “including placenta, umbilical cord and gestational sac,” could still be disposed of through “grinding and discharging to a sanitary sewer system; incineration followed by deposition of the residue in a sanitary landfill.”

Health commission spokesperson Bryan Black told the Texas Tribune that the rules were developed to ensure high sanitation standards. “The Health and Human Services Commission developed new rules to ensure Texas law maintains the highest standards of human dignity,” Black said. 

The rules would require approval from the Republican-held state legislature.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) spokesperson Ciara Matthews said in a statement that the governor is hopeful the legislature will approve the rules. “Governor Abbott believes human and fetal remains should not be treated like medical waste, and the proposed rule changes affirms the value and dignity of all life,” Matthews aid.

CRR cited statements made by Abbott in a fundraising email in which the governor solicited campaign contributions to support his efforts to “establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”  

CRR contends that Abbott’s statements undercut “the state’s claims that these regulations have anything to do with protecting women’s health and safety.”

Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told Public News Service that the regulations will increase the cost of abortion care and the amount of people involved in the process.

“The rule creates ambiguity and involves other licensed professionals, like funeral service directors and cemeteries that are not involved in medical care, and shouldn’t be involved, and don’t want to be involved in it,” Rocap said.

Carol Everett, an anti-choice activist and supporter of the proposed rules, made dubious claims that methods of disposal of fetal remains could contaminate the water supply.

“There’s several health concerns. What if the woman had HIV? What if she had a sexually transmitted disease? What if those germs went through and got into our water supply,” Everett told the Austin Fox News affiliate

The transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections through water systems or similar means is not supported by any scientific evidence.

The new rules could have unintended consequences for medication abortion care. The proposed rules state that “products of spontaneous or induced human abortion” are subject to the law “regardless of the period of gestation.”

Under Food and Drug Administration regulations, the second part of the medication abortion regime can be taken at home. The new Texas rules could effectively ban medication abortion because an embryo miscarried at home through medication abortion cannot in practice be buried or cremated.

The Texas Alliance for Life supports the new GOP-backed rules. However, Texas Alliance for Life executive director Joe Pojman told Rewire that he was unsure what effect the new rules might have on medication abortions. “We’re going to have to study that further,” Pojman said.

Rocap told Public News Service that proposed rules are part of a “pattern of overreach” by Texas lawmakers targeting abortion providers. “This rule was proposed in the dark of night without any openness, which lets you know that they know they’re doing it the wrong way.”  

DSHS has announced a public hearing on the proposed regulations Thursday at 9 a.m. central time.  

Commentary Abortion

Latinx Must Use Votes to Fight Hyde Amendment

Cristina Aguilar, Jessica González-Rojas, Laura Jimenez & Maria Teresa Kumar

More than 27 million Latinx are now eligible to vote, and that number can help determine who takes office and what abortion policies they enact.

The first woman known to die of an unsafe illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment was a Latina. A struggling 27-year-old college student with a young daughter, Rosie Jimenez died from septic shock in October 1977—with a scholarship check earmarked for school in her purse. Jimenez had been refused coverage because, just months before, Congress had enacted the Hyde Amendment banning use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

As we enter this Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice (today through August 7), the Hyde Amendment continues to deny pregnant people the chance to make the best decision for themselves and their families. And because our communities are hard-hit by abortion restrictions, Latinx must play a role in our electoral process to repeal Hyde and replace other anti-abortion measures with policies that truly support all families.

A 2011 study found that more than 70 percent of Latino registered voters believe that we should not judge someone who feels they’re not ready to be a parent. Unfortunately, this sentiment is not echoed by many legislators in Congress and throughout the country, who too often design policies precisely to put abortion care out of reach.

While the recent Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court struck down medically unnecessary restrictions in Texas, abortion access remains a challenge for many Latinx across the country. The Hyde Amendment has a disproportionate impact on low-income people of color who already face numerous health-care disparities and often do not have the money to compensate for insurance gaps.

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Withholding Medicaid coverage for abortion has an especially devastating effect in our communities, where enrollment is high; in 2012, 29 percent of Latinx adults and children nationwide received benefits from the program, and in some states such as Texas, more than half of Medicaid participants were Latinx.

Whether it’s public or private, health insurance must cover the services we need. When it doesn’t, the scramble to pay for an abortion has the potential to push families further into poverty. Already, too many of us are just scraping by while living with the stresses of a broken immigration system that divides families, structural racism, and lack of educational and employment opportunities.

Our communities need laws to ensure that health plans provide abortion coverage—not the Hyde Amendment nor legislation that claims to protect women while closing clinics or shaming those who provide and seek abortions.

Abortion is health care. And the ability to obtain health care should not be predicated on what type of insurance benefits you have, how much money you make, or whether you live in a state that allows public funds to pay for abortions.

It is time that we push back. Together, we can harness our power to advance positive policies that will make a difference. Latinx comprise a critical voting bloc that can significantly influence electoral outcomes; according to the Pew Research Center, an unprecedented number—27.3 million—of Latinx will be eligible to vote in the upcoming election.

But this only matters if we show up at the ballot boxes. We need to hold our elected officials accountable when they don’t consider the needs of our families. By lifting our collective voices and our votes, we can sway who holds office and makes policies.

This election, the health, rights, and dignity of our families are at stake. We cannot afford to sit out voting. It is an opportunity to make sure that those who are charged with representing us stand with our families. We owe it to Rosie Jimenez and the daughter she left behind. We owe it to ourselves.

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