Whether it is forced ultrasounds in Virginia, a Wisconsin bill implying that being a single parent means you are abusive, stripping LGBT people and immigrants out of the Violence Against Women Act, or the fact that you can’t even say vagina in Michigan without being scolded and punished, it seems like every time we turn around there is an even more ridiculous, insulting, and dangerous attack on women.
But believe it or not 41 Republican lawmakers in Iowa have actually found a way to take it even further. It was announced last week that Iowa House members are pushing emergency rule-making for the state Department of Human Services to halt medical coverage for abortion care in cases of rape or incest, or severe physical or mental fetal deformities. It just doesn’t get more mean-spirited, out of touch, and just plain awful than that.
Seriously, is there a competition to see who can hurt women the most? A rape victim who wants to end her pregnancy doesn’t need the added burden of trying to scrape together funds because her insurance won’t cover it. We can do more for those who are raped or victims of incest.
Same goes for women who have to make the decision whether to end a pregnancy due to fetal anomaly. Women themselves tell us that this can be a gut-wrenching decision. It is only fair that a woman experiencing pregnancy complications should be able to consider all options. A ban on coverage only makes it harder for a woman who is in already difficult circumstances. We should be supporting these women, not making abortion harder to get or more dangerous.
Current law already imposes unfair restrictions on abortion coverage. Since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, millions of women have been left without coverage for the care they need just because they have government-funded health insurance. Medical coverage for abortion care is withheld from women enrolled in Medicaid or the military, federal employees, women with disabilities in the Medicare program, Peace Corp volunteers, women in federal prisons, and women who receive coverage under Indian Health Services. Many women have to delay getting the care they need because their insurance does not cover a legal medical procedure. Other women and their families are pushed into greater poverty as they struggle to scrape together the funds to secure medical care.
Now politicians in Iowa want to make this worse by targeting rape and incest victims and flouting federal law that rightly requires Medicaid funds to cover abortion at least in these cases. They are even willing to lose money to do it. If they choose not to comply they will risk their Medicaid funding – anywhere from $4 million to $2 billion depending on who you talk to – dollars meant to help provide much needed care to low-income Iowans.
A woman and her doctor should be able to make health decisions based on what is best for her, not based on what she can afford. Even if a woman gets her insurance from a government source, she should be covered for a full range of legal medical procedures, including abortion. Once again, our elected officials are meddling in a woman’s private health decisions, but this time in an even crueler fashion than usual. This is at the same time that we are hearing about sexual assault survivors in Oklahoma and Florida who were denied access to emergency contraception because it was against someone else’s conscience. Haven’t these people heard of compassionate care for survivors?!
Real women get hurt by this political game playing. Even if some of us feel conflicted about abortion, it is unfair to restrict insurance coverage, or try to influence a woman’s decision about whether to end a pregnancy, just because she is enrolled in Medicaid. A woman should be able to make important life decisions based on what is best for her unique circumstances. Let’s respect and support a woman who is facing the life-altering decision of whether or not to have a child.
Join me in urging the Obama administration to resist these attacks on women and enforce federal law. Let’s make sure that survivors of rape and incest and pregnant women dealing with a fetal anomaly in Iowa are treated with respect and compassion and provided access to the medical care they need, including abortion care. It is an important first step towards ensuring that all women have coverage for a full range of pregnancy-related medical care, including abortion care, whether their insurance is individual, through an employer, or through a government program.