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Standing Up For Women's Health 38 Years After Roe

Pregnant individuals should be able to make the best decision for themselves and their families.
Jennifer Dalven,
Director, Reproductive Freedom Project,
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January 22, 2011

Thirty-eight years ago today, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion and helped to ensure that women and their families could decide for themselves whether to have a child. Within just a few years of the Roe decision, Congress stripped coverage for abortions from the Medicaid program, making access to abortion services harder to obtain for low-income women. Today, some politicians are still working to pass laws that will make it impossible for all women and their families to buy insurance policies that cover abortion.

Congress started this ball moving again last year. When it passed the health care reform law, it included restrictions making it more onerous for insurance companies to sell, and therefore for women and their families to buy, insurance policies that include coverage for abortion. A new bill proposed by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey would effectively stop private insurance from providing coverage for abortion completely. Abortion is part of basic health care for women and should be included in health insurance plans along with other pregnancy related care.

State legislatures are also attempting to interfere with families’ private decisions. Just last year, we saw politicians in five states ban insurance companies from selling, and ban women from buying, policies that cover abortion in the new exchanges, and this year many more states are expected to follow suit.

We may not all agree about abortion, but we can agree that when a woman discovers that something has gone wrong during her pregnancy, she deserves the peace of mind that she will be able to get the health care she needs. The same goes for a woman facing an unintended pregnancy. She should be able to make the best decision for herself and her family, whether that decision is raising the child, adoption or abortion.

No woman plans to have an abortion, but that is the point of health insurance. It is there to cover our unexpected medical needs. In fact, insurance companies already recognize the need to provide for every scenario. That’s why the majority of plans currently include coverage for abortion care. Politicians should not be working to take away coverage that already exists for most women.

Deciding whether and when to become a parent is one of the most private and important decisions a person can make. It is a decision that should be made by a woman, her family, and her doctor. Nearly four decades after Roe v. Wade changed the legal landscape for women across this country, politicians must stop trying to interfere with private medial decisions by playing politics with a woman’s health.

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