In New York City, Medicaid Coverage of Abortion Doesn’t Cut It


The following is a testimony given before the New York City Council Committee on Women’s Issues in favor of Resolution 1635-A on January 18, 2013. The committee passed the resolution, and on January 23 the full council adopted it.

Thank you to the New York City Council for introducing this important resolution

My name is Alison Turkos and I am a Member of the Board of Directors of the New York Abortion Access Fund, NYAAF. NYAAF supports anyone who is unable to pay fully for an abortion, and is living in or traveling to New York State, by providing financial assistance and connections to other resources. When a clinic we work with sees a patient who needs assistance, NYAAF is one of the potential funding sources to which they turn. Over the last ten years, we’ve pledged over $232,000 to help 764 people access abortion services. We are run completely by volunteers, and 100 percent of donations made to NYAAF go directly to helping people in need pay for abortion services.

People come from all over the country to access abortion services in New York City. At NYAAF, we’ve helped people from as close as Pennsylvania and New Jersey to as far as California, Texas, Utah, and Bermuda. Some people find that abortion is more affordable in NYC than in their home states, while others come from areas where there are no abortion providers at all. Others come because they may be able to have procedures done in later stages of pregnancy.

The need for abortion funding is so great that there are more than 100 abortion funds across the country. In New York, we are fortunate enough to be one of the 17 states where Medicaid covers abortion. NYAAF works primarily with people who are uninsured, undocumented, or for one reason or another, don’t qualify for Medicaid. Believe it or not, most other abortion funds would call us lucky. Why? Because most funds are located in states where Medicaid does not cover abortion, or only covers abortion in very limited, rare circumstances. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prohibits Medicaid from covering abortion services. In fact, abortion is the only medical procedure banned from Medicaid coverage.

The intent of the Hyde Amendment is to make it more difficult for low-income people to get the abortions they need. Because of the Hyde Amendment, low-income people sell their belongings, go hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risk eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion. Some people never manage to get the money they need to pay for their abortion – which means that they are forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

Abortion funds work every day to make sure this doesn’t happen. We are privileged to live in a state where we have Medicaid coverage of abortion, but we know that is not enough. We are thankful for these courageous city council members who recognize that abortion must be safe and legal, but it also has to be accessible, affordable, and covered by health insurance. We hope this resolution will push people to think about abortion not just as a matter of choice, but as a matter of economic and reproductive justice. Thank you.

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Follow Alison Turkos on twitter: @alisonturkos