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Budgeting Away Women's Reproductive Rights

Georgeanne M. Usova,
Former Senior Legislative Counsel
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February 3, 2015

In its first month, Congress has launched assault after assault on the rights of women, and the federal budget process will be no different. Year after year the budget becomes a vehicle for a host of restrictions limiting access to reproductive health care that hit low-income women and their families the hardest.

President Obama yesterday laid out his vision for how the federal government should spend its money in the coming year. Next stop is Congress, where lawmakers will review the administration’s budget recommendations and attempt to pass multiple funding bills. Congress habitually attaches sweeping abortion funding restrictions to those bills, which withhold insurance coverage of abortion from millions of women.

For women who are struggling to make ends meet, insurance coverage can mean the difference between getting the care they need and going without. In real terms, this means that one in four Medicaid-eligible women who seek an abortion are forced to carry their pregnancy to term.

A woman’s ability to make an important personal medical decision shouldn’t depend on her income, but on what she and her doctor decides is best for her. And yet, year after year, politicians are effectively taking that decision out of women’s hands.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s budget largely continues this trend, with the exception of a few steps forward for access to reproductive healthcare. The budget strikes the ban prohibiting the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to cover abortions for the city’s low-income women, and it also increases funding for Title X, which provides crucial family-planning services, including preventive care, to low-income women nationwide.

However, it leaves in place the Hyde amendment and all other provisions that restrict coverage for women who are enrolled in federal health care programs, including Medicaid and Medicare enrollees, Peace Corps volunteers, federal employees and their dependents, Native American women, and women in federal prisons and immigration detention centers.

Now is the time to take a bold stand against policies that harm women, families, and communities year after year. The president’s leadership has been key to limited expansions in coverage for Peace Corps volunteers, and more and more voices are calling for an end to all federal coverage restrictions. In fact, 20 members of Congress recently urged the president to show strong executive leadership by sending Congress a clean budget without abortion riders.

The budget is now with Congress, and what they do will have enormous stakes for women’s health.

Let your elected officials know that you’re watching, and that you want them to stand up for millions of American women.

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