HR 7, and the Consequences Women Are Made to Bear

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Commentary Law and Policy

HR 7, and the Consequences Women Are Made to Bear

Kate Stewart

Let's go behind the statistics—behind the political rhetoric—to talk about the real impact of restrictions on abortion and bans on coverage.

Tuesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 7, also known as the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” This is a sweeping ban on abortion coverage and another mean-spirited attempt to interfere with a woman’s personal decision-making, one that falls hardest on women who are struggling to get by and young women.

Fortunately, this bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, and President Obama promised to veto it if it made it to his desk.

What does HR 7 mean, if it’s not going to be enacted? We could tell more about how HR 7 would restrict insurance coverage of abortion, putting it out of reach for many women. Or that it would make permanent the Hyde Amendment and deny Medicaid coverage of abortion. We could remind you of the fact that denying Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, with the number even higher among young women.

But, instead, we are going behind the statistics—behind the political rhetoric—to talk about the real impact of restrictions on abortion and bans on coverage. Let’s talk about the real women who are affected by these harmful, unnecessary, and shameful restrictions. For too long, too many legislators have turned their backs on women and have forgotten that one in three women in the United States will have an abortion. These women include the young woman in front of you in the check-out line, a favorite English teacher, or the woman next to you on the train to work. We cannot know all their circumstances. These women are smart, and capable of making decisions about their own health and families; we should be finding ways to support and uplift them, not spending needless energy on restricting their options and too often causing harm to them and their families.

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Individual stories, like the ones collected below as part of the 1 in 3 Campaign, are reminders that women are forced to bear the weight of harmful restrictions such as HR 7, made by legislators who are too close-minded, too ignorant, or too uncaring for the consequences of their pens and base-baiting debates. These stories are also a reminder to us. They remind us why we fight, and what we are fighting for.

“I had my daughter and then nine months went past and I got pregnant again. And that was a big shock … My daughter’s father and I didn’t have any money. Abortions cost money. A lot of money. $350 is not cheap when you’re 19 with no job and a new baby and the baby’s father is halfway trying to support us. We had to go borrow money. We didn’t even have any money to get the abortion. How could we not have any money to do that, but we would have money to raise another child?” —Alex

“I was once with an abusive partner … and we were always one part-time hourly paycheck away from being destitute. It wasn’t long before I could no longer afford birth control pills and as soon as I stopped taking them I got pregnant. My only reaction was terror. If I’d kept the baby, there’d be no chance of getting away from him. Keeping it wasn’t an option.” —Anonymous

And we can never forget Rosie Jiménez, who was a 27-year-old college student and single mother when she became pregnant. She qualified for Medicaid, but because the Hyde Amendment had gone into effect two months earlier, she couldn’t get coverage for an abortion. Rosie was six months away from graduating with a teaching credential—a ticket to a better life for her and her 5-year-old daughter.

Unable to raise the money to pay for a legal abortion, she turned to an unsafe and illegal procedure. On October 3, 1977, Rosie died of septic shock, the first known victim of the Hyde Amendment, and a painful reminder that legal abortion means little to a woman without the ability to pay for it.