Aug 16, 2016
Reproductive rights are back in the political spotlight as Democrats gear up to push for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment--the law that bans federal funding of abortions--in the lead-up to the November elections.
For the first time, the Democrats included a provision in their platform for the Hyde Amendment to be repealed, answering a long-held call from pro-choice activists. And now, building on the momentum from recent campaigns by Planned Parenthood and the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision on Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, Democrats may have the upper hand.
"Access to abortion shouldn't depend on your zip code, and it shouldn't depend on your pocketbook," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Moreover, public opinion is increasingly opposing the Hyde Amendment, advocate and policy strategist Marcela Howell explained last week. In an op-ed for The Hill, Howell, who is the founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, wrote:
It's time to get the facts straight. The reality is, voters oppose the 40-year-old policy. A poll from Hart Research Associates shows 86 percent of voters agree that "however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman's health coverage because she is poor." People of all ages and political stripes share this view: 90 percent of voters ages 18 to 34, 84 percent of voters 65 and over, 79 percent of Republicans, and 94 percent of Democrats all agree.
[....] Bans on abortion coverage push abortion out of reach of women based solely on their income, and can have devastating effects on a family's economic stability. Restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, and a woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get the care she needs.
The Democrats' campaign comes at a crucial time. The Washington Postreports:
Facing hundreds of restrictive laws nationwide, abortion rights advocates are going on the offensive with a new strategy.
Gone is the vaguely conciliatory mantra of the past, the ideal of keeping abortion "safe, legal, and rare" once advocated by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Today's activists are bringing the passionately debated procedure into the light, encouraging women to talk openly about their abortions and giving the movement an unapologetic human face.
Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, who gained increased media attention in 2015 when she withstood lengthy congressional testimony over controversial "sting" videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue, is a seminal figure in the Democrats' campaign. The group endorsed Hillary Clinton for president last year and recently announced that it would register voters at its clinics--unlikely to attract many Republicans, the Post notes.
And Richards herself spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month, where she candidly criticized Donald Trump's stance on reproductive and women's rights, using the word "abortion" three times in five minutes.
"There are still enormous barriers to women who need access to safe and legal abortion," she told the Post. "We need to challenge or repeal every single restriction that's out there."
And Howell concludes: "However anyone feels about abortion, every woman, whether she has private or public insurance, should have access to the full range of quality reproductive health care, including abortion. Certainly a woman's access to safe and constitutionally-protected health care shouldn't depend on the personal views of politicians in Congress."
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