Organizations Representing Women’s Health, Youth, People of Color, and Faith Communities React to Coverage of Abortion Services within the President’s Budget
Washington D.C. – Leaders of 15 organizations reacted today on how President Obama’s budget proposal handled health coverage for abortion care. The President’s FY2014 budget proposes to again allow Washington, DC to use local Medicaid funds on abortion coverage. The Budget does not, though, remove the abortion coverage restrictions for women qualified and enrolled in Medicaid, federal employees, Native American women receiving care through Indian Health Services, and federal prisoners.
Included below are excerpts of the leaders’ statements. In addition, Jessica Arons from the Center for American Progress published an insightful piece on the issue for Think Progress: “The President’s New Budget Is A Small Step Forward In Restoring Women’s Abortion Rights”
Debra Hauser, President, Advocates for Youth
We also stand with the President in his efforts to remove restrictions on the District of Columbia’s autonomy in deciding whether to use its own funds to cover abortion for low-income women.
We also applaud the President’s budget request for recognizing the essential role the United States plays in delivering critical foreign assistance to the most vulnerable women, men, and young people around the world. In addition to continued support for international family planning programs, the President’s budget also includes a long overdue fix to permit coverage for abortion services for Peace Corps volunteers in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment—ensuring that volunteers are treated equitably and fairly when it comes to accessing comprehensive women’s health services while serving overseas.
While the President’s budget begins to put us on the right path, there is much more that the Administration and Congress can do to ensure young people, especially young and low-income women, are not denied the information and services needed to lead healthy lives. We had hoped that President Obama would lift all budget restrictions on coverage for abortion to stop the denial of this essential care. We believe that all women should have access to abortion coverage so that they can make personal health decisions based on what is best for them and their families. But since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld health care assistance for abortion services in publicly-funded health insurance.
We thank the President for his continued support of young people and their sexual health and call on the Administration and Congress to remove barriers so that all young people have access to the information and services they need to lead healthy lives.
Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, President and CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative
“The Black Women’s Health Imperative is pleased that the President, in his 2014 budget, lifts the ban on the District of Columbia using its own funds to provide abortion care for women who most need coverage. Easing restrictions on abortion coverage in instances of rape for Peace Corps volunteers is equally important.
“However, the Imperative is most concerned about low-income and women of color, who often face barriers in receiving health care and are barred from receiving abortion coverage under Medicaid. Moving forward, we must continue to fight for removal of all restrictions on abortion care funding for women across the country. Restrictions to block women’s ability to have access to the care they need are impediments to women being able make informed decisions about their own health.
We urge Congress to put political gamesmanship aside and lift all restrictions to abortion coverage. Many women’s lives depend on their action.”
Nancy Northup, President and CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights
“Women deserve comprehensive health insurance that covers all their pregnancy related needs, including abortion care. By retaining the Hyde Amendment, women who depend on federal programs for their health care will continue to be subject to a cruel and discriminatory policy that keeps them from exercising their constitutionally-protected right to abortion. This unjust restriction on women’s reproductive health care must end.
“We commend the President for the important steps he has laid out in today’s budget to improve coverage of critical abortion services for two populations who have long been subject to discrimination.
“Politicians hostile to women’s reproductive rights have for too long used health care for low-income women in D.C. as a political pawn in the federal budget and the President’s proposal today begins the process of righting that wrong.”
Val Vilott, President, DC Abortion Fund (DCAF)
“DCAF is pleased that the President’s budget respects the District of Columbia’s autonomy and re-enables the District’s Medicaid program to provide abortion care coverage for low-income women. However, we are disappointed that the oppressive and discriminatory Hyde Amendment was included in his budget. This policy withholds federal abortion coverage for women who use federal Medicaid benefits.
“The Hyde Amendment means that many women, girls, and their families will be denied the health care that they need and deserve. We call on Congress to put politics aside and lift restrictions on abortion coverage to ensure that anyone, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status, has access to comprehensive, quality health care including abortion care.”
Eveline Shen, Executive Director, Forward Together
“As an organization committed to advancing women’s reproductive health and rights, Forward Together appreciates the important steps your administration has taken to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care. We want to thank you for sending a budget to Congress that allows the District of Columbia to use its own funds to cover abortion for low-income women, but we want to share our disappointment that your budget to Congress continues to withhold coverage for abortion for women who get coverage through federal funds.”
Kelly Blanchard, President, Ibis Reproductive Health
“Ibis was pleased to see some progress in support for women’s access to abortion care in this budget. Women in the Peace Corps will hopefully be able to access coverage for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. And Washington, DC, will be able to determine whether to use its own local funds to cover abortion care. However, the President left in place bans on federal Medicaid coverage for abortion, so low-income women will continue to unfairly face financial and other barriers to access constitutionally protected health services. We look forward to a day when abortion coverage does not depend on your income, where you live, or whether your employer is or receives money from the federal government. Our research shows that restrictions on abortion coverage harm women and their families. Comprehensive coverage respects women and their right to determine whether or when to have children, regardless of income. We look forward to working with our colleagues and allies to convince this administration and members of Congress to restore public funding for abortion care.”
Vicki Saporta, President and CEO, National Abortion Federation (NAF)
“The President’s budget takes an important step toward lifting a ban that prohibits DC from using its locally raised revenue to help low-income women obtain the abortion care they need. This discriminatory policy interferes with the rights of DC residents and has effectively prevented the DC government from meeting the needs of women in the District. The President’s budget also eases restrictions on abortion care for Peace Corps volunteers. We appreciate that President Obama has addressed these inequitable policies.
“However, despite addressing these bans, the President’s budget still maintains harmful restrictions that undermine women’s access to abortion care.
“Federal funding restrictions are the most significant barrier to abortion access for low-income women in the United States. These funding restrictions unfairly jeopardize the health and well-being of millions of women who rely on the federal government for their health care. NAF operates a toll-free Hotline and we hear from thousands of women every month who are struggling to afford the cost of the abortion care they need.
“Abortion care is basic health care for women and should not be treated differently from other health care services. As we move forward with the budget, we call on the President and Congress to work together to ensure that women have access to comprehensive health care, including abortion care.”
Maya Rupert, Policy Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
“The National Center for Lesbian Rights thanks the President for sending a budget to Congress that allows the District of Columbia to use its own funds to cover abortion for low-income women. This is an important first step to stop political interference with women’s decision-making and to lift restrictions on coverage of abortion care. We are especially concerned about these types of restrictions because LGBT youth have a disproportionately high rate of unintended pregnancy. Withholding coverage for abortion care harms their health and dignity, and our community deserves better.”
Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women
“The slight easing of access to abortion services included in the FY 2014 federal budget proposals is certainly welcome news. The budget would extend to Peace Corps volunteers the same access to coverage of abortion in case of rape, incest, or to preserve the life of the pregnant woman that other federal workers have. Heretofore Peace Corps volunteers had no access to abortion coverage whatsoever.
“The budget would also allow the District of Columbia to spend its own local funds to cover abortion for low-income women — a provision that has been a source of contention for years, and one with implications for home rule for the District as well as for the health and well-being of low-income women. Its inclusion is a step forward in this ongoing struggle.
“Despite these very modest advances, however, the budget still preserves an unconscionable policy that withholds comprehensive abortion coverage for millions of women who receive health care through federal programs, including members of the military and their families, low-income women, federal employees, Native American women, among others. It means those women cannot access abortion services in the same manner as can women with greater resources or with private insurance.
“NCJW will continue to press Congress and the White House to restore abortion coverage for all women regardless of income or source of insurance. We continue to believe that the government’s adoption of what is essentially a religious view of abortion is a violation of the separation of religion and state and constitutes interference with a woman’s constitutionally protected right to privacy in making her own personal decisions on medical care.”
Emily Spitzer Executive Director, National Health Law Program
“President Obama’s 2014 budget makes important inroads by restoring the ability of the District of Columbia to use its own money to cover abortion services for low-income women and easing restrictions on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers. However, we still have significant work to do to make comprehensive and accessible health care a reality for all women.
“Unfortunately, the President’s budget maintains a harmful federal policy — known as the Hyde Amendment — that withholds coverage for abortion for women insured through Medicaid, except in dire, limited circumstances. Low-income women and families pay the price for this unfair restriction, which limits their autonomy and puts their health, well-being and economic futures at risk.
“Politics should never stand in the way of any woman receiving the health care she needs. Decisions about whether and when to have a child must be left to a woman and her family. It’s time for lawmakers to stop putting up roadblocks and make sure all women have affordable access to the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion, regardless of how they are insured.”
Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
“We are pleased that the President has decided to lift restrictions on D.C.’s use of its own funds to provide coverage for abortion for low-income women, and hope that Congress will do the same. However, we are disappointed to see that this budget fails to challenge Congress’ harmful policy of withholding insurance coverage for abortion for women across the country. The amount of money a woman has in her pocket shouldn’t determine whether she has access to pregnancy-related care, including abortion. Because of Hyde and other similar restrictions, many Latinas are forced to choose between paying for the health services they need or paying for food, childcare, and rent. We now turn our attention to Congress, and urge them to put politics aside and ensure that all women have access to health coverage that allows them to make critical decisions about their lives, families, and futures without coercion or discrimination.”
Stephanie Poggi, Executive Director, National Network of Abortion Funds
“The National Network of Abortion Funds commends President Obama for striking restrictions on D.C. funding of abortion for low-income women in his budget and for moving to lessen restrictions on coverage for women in the Peace Corps. However, we join many other groups in the women’s health and rights community in our disappointment that the President did not take a critical step toward lifting the current Medicaid coverage ban.
“For far too long, politicians who want to make abortion illegal have denied Medicaid coverage. This means taking away the ability to make a real decision from a woman who is already struggling to make ends meet. At the National Network of Abortion Funds, we believe every woman should be able to make her own decision, based on what makes sense for her situation, no matter how poor she is. The decision of whether or not to become a parent is too important and shouldn’t be taken away by politicians who have their own agendas. Our member groups across the country assist women to cover the cost of abortion, but we can’t help every woman in need and many women and families must use money meant for food, rent, heat and light. This issue also disproportionately affects women of color, taking away options and increasing health disparities.
“We pledge to continue working with partner organizations across the country until the Medicaid ban and all other coverage bans are lifted and the amount of money a woman has – or doesn’t have — no longer prevents her from making her own decision.”
Cindy Pearson, Executive Director, National Women’s Health Network
“With this budget, President Obama affirms his commitment to move from symbolism to action when it comes to the autonomy of DC residents. Changing the license plates on his car was a welcome first step, but putting forward a budget that allows the District of Columbia to spend locally raised dollars to pay for needed abortion care for women living in this city shows a real commitment to the health and reproductive autonomy of DC women and families. The budget also takes an important step forward by providing coverage for abortion in cases when a woman serving in the Peace Corps is pregnant as a result of rape or incest or when her pregnancy poses a threat to her life. These policies can have a meaningful and positive affect in women’s lives, and we thank President Obama for standing with us.
“We’re disappointed, however, that his budget doesn’t demonstrate a similar commitment to women living in other parts of the country. By including politically-driven budget restrictions that Congress has created to prevent the use of federal dollars to cover abortion care for women, President Obama is letting down millions of women and families who are hurt by these unjust policies. A woman who is eligible and enrolled in Medicaid, a woman who is a federal employee, a woman who is covered through Indian Health Services – no woman should be denied coverage for abortion care for political reasons. When these programs cover pregnancy care but deny coverage for abortion, we’re taking away a woman’s ability to make important, personal decisions based on what’s best for her circumstances.
“It’s one thing for a politically gridlocked Congress, including a conservative-controlled House of Representatives, to pass a budget that imposes restrictions which are so harmful to women and families. It’s another thing entirely to see a President, who we know shares our commitment to health justice, propose a budget that will prevent a woman from getting the health care she needs, simply because of her economic status or the source of her health insurance. The young women and women of color, who are disproportionately affected by restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion care and who came out in large numbers to vote for this President last November, expect and deserve better.
“Women now must turn to Congress. We must urge them to put politics aside, stop interfering in women’s decision-making and lift restrictions on coverage for abortion care. We know that some politicians who want to make abortion illegal push bans that make it unaffordable. And we know that this imposes harsh economic consequences on families that are struggling to make ends meet. Decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child are better left to a woman who knows her own circumstances better than politicians in Washington do. It’s time to establish coverage for the full range of pregnancy care, including abortion, for every woman – no matter where she lives or works, how much money she has or where she gets her insurance.”
Rev. Harry Knox, President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
“The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice applauds the President’s budget for eliminating some of the unfair restrictions on healthcare access for women in the District of Columbia and the Peace Corps. However, we are disappointed that the President’s budget retains the Hyde Amendment. Rather than giving a woman in a difficult situation the compassion and support she deserves, the Hyde Amendment gives only discrimination and interference. We believe that it is unacceptable—and in fact immoral—for our nation’s laws to single out a group of women (most of whom have few, if any, other insurance options) for the sole purpose of taking away healthcare.”
Susannah Baruch, Interim President & CEO, Reproductive Health Technologies Project
“We commend the President for providing the District of Columbia with the option to use its own funds to cover abortion care for low-income women. We appreciate that he included abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers who are survivors of rape. The pain caused by sexual violence should never be made worse by denying access to care. These are important first steps, but there is much more that must be done to ensure that no woman is denied health coverage for abortion just because of her income or type of insurance.
“We are concerned that the budget continues to withhold coverage for abortion for women who use benefits through federal health programs. These restrictions harm women’s health and erect unnecessary and unfair barriers to care, particularly for low-income women who already face significant barriers to receiving high-quality care. We urge Congress stop interfering with personal decision-making and lift restrictions on coverage of abortion care.”
Lift Restrictions on Abortion Coverage: (video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxYjn58yJc4&feature=youtu.be