In July, prochoice advocates in the US House of Representatives authored a bill that fights the ceaseless tide of antichoice legislation and expands access to reproductive healthcare. The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act would extend abortion coverage to women currently denied access by the Hyde Amendment’s strictures on federal funding for abortion, effectively eliminating one of the largest barriers to reproductive healthcare access for women in the United States. In addition to removing these long-standing restrictions, the bill addresses the recent onslaught of state and local legislation—from TRAP laws to later abortion bans—aimed at making abortion services more challenging to access through private insurance. This is critical for women who live in one of the 25 states that have restricted abortion coverage through private insurers, and those who live in one of the 10 states where coverage of abortion is banned in every private insurance plan. The EACH Woman Act (HR 2972) was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and is cosponsored by more than 100 others.
For almost three decades, federal restrictions have made access to abortion difficult for many, especially those depending on the federal government for comprehensive healthcare services, such as Peace Corps volunteers, members of the military and those who get care through Medicaid. Because of these barriers, abortion access varies widely from state to state, and they disproportionately affect women with low incomes. According to a study from the Center for Reproductive Rights cited in the EACH Woman Act, states that place fewer obstacles to abortion access had higher overall scores for the well-being of women and their families. States with more limitations on abortion clustered at the low end of the wellness scale. Legislation that values women and respects their conscience-based decisions about their health is good policy. Good policy acknowledges the need for access to comprehensive healthcare, including abortion, for everyone.
Catholics for Choice is committed to supporting the EACH Woman Act. As Catholics, we believe the same services should be available to each woman to uphold her human dignity and her fundamental equal worth. No matter how she gets her health coverage—whether through a state or federal program or her employer—a woman has what it takes to make her own reproductive decisions: her conscience. She doesn’t lose this right no matter what her circumstances, her income or from where she receives her insurance. The preferential option for the poor, a primary tenet of Catholic social teaching, compels us to consider access to abortion within the context of poverty and from the viewpoint of those with limited means. The EACH Woman Act is a breakthrough in shifting a wrong-headed and hard-hearted policy that has been detrimental to women, especially poor women, and their health options.
As we go to print, the EACH Woman Act has only been introduced in the House of Representatives, but a Senate companion bill is expected in the coming weeks.