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Republicans Are Voting to Permanently Block Abortion Access for Low-Income Women

The discriminatory bill, HR 7, would also bar abortion coverage for women insured through the Affordable Care Act.

by Gabby Bess
Jan 24 2017, 7:55pm

Photo by Maansi Jain

Update: Around 5PM on Tuesday, the House voted to pass HR 7, 238-183. Three Democrats joined the Republicans in passing the bill.

The Republicans in Congress have already started the work of crafting the fascist government of their dreams. Just two days after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and a day after Trump reinstated the global gag rule, the House has convened to debate an anti-abortion bill introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ-4): HR 7, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017.

Like similar measures that have been introduced in the past few years, the bill would prohibit federal money from subsidizing abortion care for low-income women insured by Medicaid and women in the military and federal workforce. But it also goes further in its explicit call to bar abortion coverage for women insured through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Read more: Women Prepare for Years of Fighting as Trump Begins to Attack Abortion Rights

We know what happens when all women don't have access to all reproductive services. Under the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid already neglects abortion coverage; this means that young women and low-income women who have decided that they cannot carry a pregnancy to term have to scramble to come up with funds to receive the urgent medical care that they need, which can cost upwards of $500. In many cases, women who can't afford to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket are forced to consider risky and unsafe options, like self-inducing a miscarriage, and one in four women end up carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The new bill would effectively make the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which is passed each year as a budget rider, permanent—and adds additional burdens.

"Black women in our country are already suffering the harms of bans on abortion coverage, and rather than improving our access to necessary health services, the new Congress is obsessed with restricting abortion and doubling down on the Hyde Amendment," said Kierra Johnson, the executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. "Today they are expected to vote on HR 7, a cruel and sweeping legislation that makes the Hyde Amendment permanent and interferes with women's private health insurance coverage. No one in this country voted for Congress to take away our basic rights. In fact, Americans are more supportive than ever of keeping abortion legal, available, and covered by insurance. Shame on these out-of-touch politicians."

No one in this country voted for Congress to take away our basic rights.

During the procedural debate for the bill, House Republicans went through their typical song and dance: When Smith took the floor, he asserted that the "Hyde Amendment has saved two million lives," meaning that it has prevented two million women from getting abortions, because "public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise." He was willfully ignoring the fact that, by his account, at least two million women were not given the chance to make their own medical decisions. He also took the time to perpetuate the lie that abortion consists of "dismemberment of a child's fragile body, including decapitation and severing of arms and legs."

Rep. Pete Sessions and many other Republicans tried to appear less extreme. "This has absolutely nothing to do with the right to choose," he asserted. "Taxpayers should not be engaged in paying for abortions [and] killing of babies in this country."

But, as Democrats in the chamber pointed out, there is no way to pass this bill and support the right to choose. For their part, Democrats overwhelmingly stood in opposition to the bill, staking out the position that Congress should repeal the Hyde Amendment, not strengthen it.

Read more: How Far Have We Come? Attending the Women's March as a Trans Woman

"The right to choose is meaningless without the access to choose, and that is what this bill is about," Rep. Caroline Maloney said during the debate. "It is cutting off access to choice and that if why the anti-choice movement is so strongly behind this bill. HR 7 is a cynical attempt to use the federal government's power to restrict a woman's access to her constitutionally protected right to an abortion. I oppose the Hyde Amendment and believe we should be increasing access to comprehensive health care, not reducing it."

However, with a Republican majority, the bill is expected to pass later today.

"If anyone was wondering about the priorities of the new anti-woman Congress—they've shown their cards. In just two weeks, they've already taken steps to dismantle the ACA and take away birth control coverage, defund Planned Parenthood, and now they've re-introduced sweeping legislation to make the Hyde Amendment permanent," said Destiny Lopez, co-director of All* Above All. "Already, too many women are denied abortion coverage because of how much they earn: HR 7 is cruel and callous legislation that would make these discriminatory bans permanent law. This is all part of the Trump-Pence agenda to punish women."

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women's rights
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