Abortion Access is NOT a Bargaining Chip

A government shutdown is looming. Congress has until midnight to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. As we’ve covered previously, the consequences of a government shutdown are severe. Still, President Trump has threatened to hold the government hostage if he doesn’t get funding for his $21.6 billion border wall – even threatening to withhold cost sharing subsidies that help millions of people afford health care unless Congress funds the wall and repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
These threats were obviously absurd. And Trump quickly walked back his threats on both the wall and the health insurance subsidies. But there is an equally absurd and harmful threat that remains in play in the government shutdown fight – and it’s a threat that we have seen time and time again. Anti-abortion politicians frequently attempt to sneak provisions or “riders” into funding legislation that would deny people health insurance coverage of abortion. This forces Members committed to women’s health into a terrible position: hold up funding legislation until the riders are removed or bargain away abortion rights– this year doesn’t appear to be different.
These restrictions have serious consequences for people who have decided to have an abortion. Access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helps to ensure that a woman can make the important decision of whether and when to have children that is best for her and her family. Women pay an average of $397 for a first trimester abortion and $854 for a second trimester abortion – making insurance coverage critical for people who have decided to have an abortion. Some women denied coverage of abortion will be forced to postpone an abortion while attempting to find the necessary funds.  Although abortion is an extremely safe procedure, delays increase the health risks of the procedure. Moreover, when a woman is living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage for an abortion can push her deeper into poverty. A woman who is unable to get an abortion is more likely to be living in poverty and be unemployed one year later than a woman who received the abortion care she needed. And studies show that when political interference restricts public health coverage of abortion, it forces one in four lower-income women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Insurance coverage of abortion is integral to women’s health, economic security, and ability to make autonomous life decisions – so why do some lawmakers think it can be used as a political bargaining chip? Women’s rights, their health, and their economic security should not be bargained away. Abortion riders should go the way of Trump’s other misguided threats, such as the border wall and health insurance subsidies – women deserve to know that their lives won’t be used in political game play.