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At a Hyde Amendment protest last year. (Photo: @AllAboveAll/Twitter)

GOP Attack on Women Continues With House Vote to Deny Abortion Coverage

"A woman's access to abortion should not depend on where she lives or how much money she has"

Deirdre Fulton

Anti-choice House Republicans on Tuesday voted to further curtail U.S. women's healthcare access, passing a draconian bill that permanently bans the use of federal funds for abortion and prohibits anyone who receives subsidies to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from purchasing a plan that covers abortion.

"The goal of this bill is clear: to end any and all insurance coverage of abortion and make abortion financially out of reach, even in cases where a woman's health is in danger," Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

"In far too many circumstances, a woman's paycheck determines whether she can get the healthcare she needs when she has made the decision to end a pregnancy."
—Nancy Northup, Center for Reproductive Rights

One provision of the bill, which passed 238-183 (roll call here), is mostly symbolic, turning the decades-old Hyde Amendment, which bars any federal dollars from funding abortion, into permanent law. Since 1976, Hyde Amendment has prevented women from using Medicaid funds for abortion, making "the legal right to abortion essentially meaningless for poor women and women of color," as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) put it last year

In turn, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health executive director Jessica González-Rojas had this to say of Tuesday's vote: "Plain and simple, this effort is a deliberate attack on low-income women's reproductive freedom."

But HR7's "most immediate changes will be felt on the insurance exchanges where millions of women purchase healthcare coverage," the Guardian explained.

That's because, as the Associated Press reported, "[t]he bill would bar individuals and many employers from collecting tax credits for insurance plans covering abortion that they pay for privately and purchase through exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act."

As such, it "could spell disaster for the availability of abortion coverage for women on private insurance plans across the nation," NARAL Pro-Choice America warned in its statement after the vote.

"HR7 is classic anti-choice overreach—mistaking an electoral win for a mandate—even though polls continue to show that the vast majority of Americans support legal access to abortion and don't want to be told what to do with our own bodies and our own money," said NARAL's president Ilyse Hogue. "This is classic obsessive behavior by Congressional Republicans, who prioritize these draconian measures in a country hungry for genuine economic progress and committed to expanding personal freedom."

And, coming one day after President Donald Trump's reinstatement of the so-called Global Gag Rule, it's in keeping with the Trump-Pence administration's anti-woman agenda "to punish women like Kendra, a 43-year-old mother of two," said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation. Noting Kendra's name had been changed to protect her privacy, Saporta continued:

When Kendra gave birth to her first child she nearly lost her life due to complications during the pregnancy. Her second child had severe health problems, which were almost fatal. When Kendra discovered she was pregnant again, she was afraid of the same health complications she had with her previous pregnancies and how they would affect her ability to care for her children. Kendra and her husband could barely make ends meet for their family, and she knew they could not provide for another child. Kendra and her husband made the decision to have an abortion; however, she couldn't afford her procedure. Coverage restrictions like those in HR7 make it more difficult—if not impossible—for women like Kendra to access the abortion care they need.

A woman's access to abortion should not depend on where she lives or how much money she has. And the House and its leadership should not interfere with personal medical decisions in order to advance their own ideological agenda, which most Americans do not support.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, decried the vote as "particularly shameful" coming "just three days after millions of women, men, and families mobilized and marched for their rights," referring to the weekend's global demonstrations involving at least 2.5 million participants.

"In far too many circumstances, a woman's paycheck determines whether she can get the healthcare she needs when she has made the decision to end a pregnancy," Northup added. "For low-income women and women of color, the barriers to care are even more severe. It's cynical and cruel that politicians have made it a top priority to further drive safe and legal abortion out of reach for millions more women."

HR7 faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass. BuzzFeed reports: "While there are a number of Democrats who support the Hyde Amendment—and even a few, such as Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who have introduced legislation codifying it themselves—other provisions in the bill are extremely unlikely to garner Democratic support in the Senate."

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