NAF Calls for Redefinition of What Being Pro-Choice Means: Status Quo Harms Millions of Low-Income Women

Today, I issued the following statement:

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed historic health care reform legislation. And while we agree that the health care system is certainly broken, it is unfortunate that reform continued the discrimination against our country’s most vulnerable women.

Health care reform was intended to expand comprehensive health care coverage for millions of Americans. Abortion care is basic health care for women and should not be treated differently from any other health care service, yet restrictions like the Hyde Amendment seriously limit women’s access to care. Although it has been the status quo for more than 30 years, the Hyde Amendment is a harmful, unacceptable policy that discriminates against millions of women who rely on the government for the rest of their health care.

While many of us feel very strongly that public funding restrictions need to be lifted, the pro-choice community did not attempt to use health care reform as a vehicle to advance this important goal. Now that reform has been passed, it is time for pro-choice leaders in the private and public sectors to come together to truly address the inequalities in access to abortion care and work to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

Every month, our toll-free Hotline receives thousands of calls from women who are unable to afford the abortion care they need. We recently heard from a woman who was fleeing an abusive relationship and although she had Medicaid, it wouldn’t cover her abortion; a full-time college student who was selling her textbooks to raise money for her procedure because health insurance through school didn’t cover abortion care; a rape victim and mother who was pawning her possessions in order to afford an abortion; an unemployed mother of four who was facing eviction and suicidal because she could not afford an abortion; and a single mother raising a child with a disability, who was employed and on Medicaid, but unable to afford the cost of the abortion care she needed.

In a fair and just society, we cannot continue to discriminate against our poorest women and their families. It’s time to redefine what being pro-choice means in this country. You can’t be pro-choice and deny low-income women the same access to abortion care as wealthier women.

While passing health care reform was important, it is critical that the President and our pro-choice allies in Congress now turn to protecting the health and rights of low-income women and begin to work toward the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. All women—regardless of their economic status—deserve equal access to the abortion care they need.

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