My colleagues have written extensively about the most recent Census Bureau data on poverty in the U.S. in 2014, and you can read their blog posts here. After reading them, you’ll get how poverty is a very real issue in our country, especially for women and particularly for women of color.
But something that gets lost when talking data is what it actually means to be living in poverty. My colleagues Kelli and Alana have written about the stories of women living in poverty, and the common theme is just how much of a squeeze these women and families are facing.
Living in poverty means that every penny matters. It means that some months, there aren’t any pennies leftover. And without those pennies, it also means that health care is inaccessible because it just costs too much.
For almost four decades, Congress has disregarded the reality of what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, by denying low-income women access to abortion. You see, thirty-nine years ago, Congress moved to restrict abortion coverage in the Medicaid program. Under what is commonly known as the “Hyde Amendment,” women enrolled in Medicaid are denied coverage of abortion except when the woman’s life is in danger, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Policymakers shouldn’t be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage just because she’s poor. It’s just offensive, targeting low-income women’s health. And why have they targeted poor women? Because they can.
When Representative Henry Hyde originally proposed this policy, he said: “I certainly would 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.”
That’s what it comes down to. If you are poor and depend on the federal government for health care coverage, then you don’t get to have access to a full range of health care that includes abortion.
There is one set of rules for the wealthy and another for the poor.
And that offensive policy continues year after year.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. This year some members of the House of Representatives have introduced bold new legislation that would get to the very core of this unfair, unjust, and harmful policy. The EACH Woman Act, with 100 cosponsors, is a bill that says: enough is enough, politicians should not, must not, and will not interfere with a woman’s ability to make her own important health care decisions, just because she is poor.
It’s time for us to turn the tables.
It’s (beyond) time for low-income women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care.
It’s time to Be Bold.