The first time I ever really thought about abortion was in high school. In my 10th grade American history class, I learned about the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade. My teacher explained how the ruling granted women the right to privacy and agency over their own bodies. Included in these rights was abortion. For a moment, I believed that the fight was won. I believed that since the Roe decision, all women have been free to make their own reproductive health care decisions.
However, that moment was brief. Soon I realized there was much more work to be done. I learned that just three years after Roe, Henry Hyde introduced the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment unjustly prohibits federal coverage of abortion care, unless in the case of rape, incest, or if the woman’s life is in danger. The amendment was created to stop women from getting abortions. Yes, you read that right. Henry Hyde himself clearly declared that this was the goal of the Hyde Amendment: “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the…Medicaid bill.”
After nearly 40 years of the Hyde restrictions on abortion, as part of the All Above All coalition we are saying, “Enough is enough.” It is time to take action, and time to repeal Hyde.
Announcing the EACH Woman Act
On Wednesday morning, I had the privilege of attending the announcement of the introduction of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance, known as the EACH Woman Act. The bill has the potential to change the lives of millions of women.
The bill was introduced by Representatives Barbara Lee, Diana DeGette, and Jan Schakowsky, and has a long list of co-sponsors. The event Wednesday brought together many of those members of Congress in support of this important bill. And in addition to myself and my colleagues from NWLC, countless advocates from organizations like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, United for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), and National Network of Abortion Funds were also in attendance.
Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, kicked off the event. She said, “I was born in 1976 — the year that the Hyde Amendment was first passed… My whole life I’ve watched as anti-choice lawmakers have passed abortion coverage restrictions year after year. Today we say — enough is enough.”
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, also emphasized the importance of this bill. She explained how Roe is not a reality for all women in the United States. She said, “For far too long, anti-choice politicians have interfered in reproductive health decisions…We cannot allow this to continue any longer.”
Why the EACH Woman Act Matters
The EACH Woman Act’s primary goal is to ensure that all women enrolled in government health insurance plans, such as Medicaid, have coverage for abortion care. The bill also prevents federal, state, and local legislators from restricting private insurance plans from offering coverage for abortion.
In other words, the EACH Woman Act will help ensure all women can afford to have an abortion, regardless of insurance or income.
The EACH Woman Act would also have far reaching effects. Currently, the Hyde restrictions impact nearly 20 million women in the United States. Since Hyde restricts federal coverage for abortion, women in the U.S military, Peace Corps, federal prisons, District of Columbia and more, would also benefit from the EACH Woman Act.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “This bill will prevent politicians from denying any woman health coverage because of how much she earns, where she is insured, or where she lives… The EACH Woman Act ensures that politicians will no longer be allowed to play games with women’s health decisions…It’s time to be bold.”
From Wednesday’s event, it is clear to me that there is hard-work, strength, and dedicated energy surrounding the EACH Woman Act. The bill’s advocates, both inside and outside of Congress, are fired up and ready to fight for the millions of women discriminated against by Hyde. As I left the event, the crowd’s wild cheers and applause were still ringing proudly in my ears. I am both hopeful and optimistic that the EACH Woman Act’s supporters will continue their hard work and loud volume until there is no work left to be done.