Last week, behind closed doors, President Trump signed a bill gutting family planning protections for over 4 million Americans. This bill overturns an Obama-era regulation that prevented states from discriminating against healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood that provide pregnancy care, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and contraception in addition to providing abortion care.
Now, because of President Trump’s cowardly actions, states can deny essential Title X funding to clinics that also provide abortions, even though this state funding doesn’t go to abortion services. But here’s the thing to remember, especially today, Tax day: taxpayer and state funding should go to abortion services.
Right now, the Hyde Amendment singles out abortion as the only medical procedure ineligible for insurance coverage through any federally funded care. This discriminatory amendment has been around since 1976 with the explicit goal of denying poor people access to abortion.
It legalized the government’s ability to withhold coverage of abortion from insurance providers like Medicaid, Medicare, Indian Health Services, the Peace Corps, the military, and any other federally funded insurance, including the Affordable Care Act.
Medicaid alone covers two in 10 women of reproductive age, meaning that this inequitable policy affects millions of women across the country and makes abortion inaccessible to all except the most financially privileged people.
About 75 percent of people seeking abortion services are poor or low-income, many surviving on under $20,000 a year for a family of two. As the most rigorous research shows us, poverty goes beyond a low annual income: people in poverty are more likely to experience disruptive life event such as unemployment, separation from a partner, falling behind on rent, and being forced to move multiple times.
Denying abortion coverage to people already facing these burdens is a tax on people struggling to make ends meet. Our government should not be in the business of pushing healthcare further out of reach for anyone, especially people who already face so many barriers to healthcare.
Restricting taxpayer funding of abortion also enshrines racist healthcare disparities. The majority people accessing abortion are women of color, and because of the compounding effects of racism, sexism, and classism, women of color are disproportionately poor and more likely to be unable to afford the average cost of an abortion (a whopping $470) out of pocket.
And that’s not the only cost associated with getting an abortion — many women also need to pay for transportation, childcare, and lodging costs that can add up to more than one-third of a woman’s monthly income. Because women of color are more likely to get their insurance coverage through Medicaid, these restrictions have an unequal and devastating impact on communities of color, stripping away social safety net protections.
Abortion is a crucial component of comprehensive healthcare and should be covered by taxpayer dollars in every state and under federal health insurance programs.
Women who are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term are more likely to be in poverty and stay tied to abusive partners, while women who are able to seek abortions are able to achieve their life goals related to education, employment, and parenting. Abortion is a safe, common, procedure and government-sanctioned barriers to abortion care like withholding taxpayer funding for abortion only serve to jeopardize women’s health and wellbeing.
Title X funding does not pay for abortions, but it should. Everyone should have health coverage for abortion, no matter how they get their insurance. Anything less is un-American.
Steph Herold, MPH is an award-winning activist and social scientist with a background in abortion care, abortion funds, and reproductive health advocacy. You can find her on Twitter at: @StephHerold.
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