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Seattle City Council: Remove Bans on Federal Abortion Funding (Updated)

Nina Liss-Schultz

The City of Seattle, Washington, last week introduced a resolution calling for the full repeal of all federal bans on public funding for abortion.

UPDATE, September 9, 12:20 p.m.: On Monday, September 8, the Seattle City Council passed the resolution calling for an end to all federal bans on public coverage of abortion. 

The City of Seattle, Washington, last week introduced a resolution calling for the full repeal of all federal bans on public funding for abortion. The resolution also supports the improvement of access to both public and private coverage of reproductive care, including abortion services.

In 1976, the U.S. government passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, except in certain cases. The Hyde amendment has guided what kind of abortion services are covered by publicly funded health insurance, such as Medicaid, and has limited abortion coverage to rape, incest, and life endangerment.

Though there are variations on the exceptions in which abortion is covered, many states have left out most abortion coverage from publicly funded programs since the late 1970s.

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According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 32 states and the District of Columbia only fund abortion in exceptional cases. Seventeen other states cover abortion in more cases than specified by the Hyde Amendment, though they use state funding to do so.

President Obama in March 2010 issued an executive order clarifying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would abide by the Hyde Amendment by limiting the federal funding of abortion coverage through the insurance marketplaces.

The ACA also explicitly prohibits abortion coverage from being required as part of the “essential health benefits” set up by the federal health reform law.

Because it specifically targets government funds, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects low-income women who can’t afford private insurance. Women who already struggle to access quality health care are often forced to pay out of pocket for abortion services.

Abortion can cost anywhere between $300 to $3,000, depending on the type of procedure and the provider. According to a 2009 Guttmacher Institute study, one in four women who are eligible for Medicaid abortion coverage instead give birth when funding is unavailable.

Washington is one of a dozen or so states that does not have policies on the books limiting abortion coverage in Medicaid and private insurance.

The resolution proposed by the Seattle City Council affirms that abortion is part of comprehensive reproductive care, and recognizes that bans on federal funds toward abortion discriminate primarily against low-income women and women of color. It reads:

The City of Seattle recognizes that every woman needs access to a range of safe, affordable and comprehensive reproductive health care, regardless of income, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age, and that insurance coverage is critical to accessing health care.

The Seattle City Council will vote on the resolution by Monday, September 8.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly noted that the resolution was introduced this week. In fact, it was introduced on September 2. We regret the error.

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