Independence Day Rings Hollow for D.C. Women


In two days, Americans will gather around bonfires and barbeques to celebrate Independence Day, the day our nation’s founders declared their freedom from a government that had grown oppressive and tyrannical—a government that sought to impose its will on an unwilling people, to tax them without representation, and that refused to allow the local jurisdictions to pass laws which they saw fit to ensure the safety and happiness of their inhabitants.

Sound familiar? It does if you’re a woman living in Washington, D.C., where access to affordable abortion is blocked by a legislature in which we don’t even have a vote.

Perhaps nowhere is the 4th of July more poignant than here in D.C., where the symbols of American democracy loom large in marble and granite, and the stars and stripes seems to fly from every corner. At the same time, the pageantry of democracy drips with irony, since women in D.C. are deprived the basic rights of representation and self-determination.

As Latinas who moved to D.C. to do reproductive justice work, it’s more than a little upsetting that leaving our home states of California and Maryland meant losing 1) a voting representative in the House, 2) two voting representatives in the Senate, and 3) state-funded abortion coverage through the Medicaid program. Unfortunately, we also gained 535 Congressional overseers, some of whom seek to exploit this power by passing politically loaded legislation that does nothing to represent the wishes of D.C. residents. Add to that the high rents and swampy summers, and even D.C.’s legendary food trucks and beautiful parks might not balance the scales in the city’s favor.

But we’re not giving up. We know that the women of D.C. deserve better than to have our decisions made for us by anti-choice politicians, and that D.C.’s local government deserves better than to constantly have local policies usurped by a meddling Congress.

This problem starts with the Hyde Amendment. Because of the Hyde Amendment’s near-total ban on abortion coverage through the federal Medicaid program, states are forced to choose between kicking in state funds to cover women struggling to make ends meet, or leaving those women in a lurch. Presently, 15 states extend coverage for abortion services to low-income women, and all 50 states have the option to do so.

Unfortunately, D.C.’s decision to do the same is overseen by Congress through the appropriations process, and Congress routinely overrules D.C.’s own elected officials—withholding abortion coverage from women in D.C. Denying D.C. officials the ability to decide whether to provide health coverage for abortion with its own local funds conflicts with the intent and purpose of “D.C. home rule,” the federal doctrine that allows D.C. officials to govern without constant political interference. Moreover, these restrictions primarily affect women of color in D.C., who are more likely to be low-income and receive their health coverage from the government.

However we feel about abortion, politicians shouldn’t be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage just because of how much she makes or her Zip code. A woman struggling to make ends meet should be able to make personal health decisions without political interference, regardless of whether she lives in Detroit, Denver, or D.C.

Make no mistake—the reality is that some politicians want to ban all abortion, for all women, in every state. Since they can’t quite do that (though they’re trying), instead they deny Medicaid coverage to women in D.C. just to make abortion unaffordable and therefore harder to access.

Every woman, whether she gets her insurance through Medicaid, the military, her employer, or her partner’s employer, should have coverage for the full range of pregnancy-related care, including abortion, so she can make personal health decisions based on what is best for her and her family. This is a fundamental human right, and D.C. women deserve no less.

So this July 4th, as you watch the fireworks from your hometown, please remember us, the women of D.C. Please remember that those who seek to deny abortion coverage and access for us would happily do the same to you if given the chance. We are all in this together. We are all D.C. Will you stand with us and tell Congress that we reject these cruel attacks on abortion coverage for low-income women?

Not in D.C. Not anywhere.

Join us.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with and contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • SurplusMama

    So, the vast majority of Americans (between 58% & 70% depending on the poll) do not want their tax dollars being used to kill innocent human beings. If local DC government wants to provide free/low cost abortion to women living in DC (like, as you pointed out, some states do), that is their prerogative, but federal medicaid dollars are not to be spent on abortion (with some exceptions). Women in DC are in no different position, in that regard, than women in states who have chosen not to fund abortion.

    Finally, you write, “Every woman, whether she gets her insurance through Medicaid, the military, her employer, or her partner’s employer, should have coverage for the full range of pregnancy-related care, including abortion, so she can make personal health decisions based on what is best for her and her family. This is a fundamental human right, and D.C. women deserve no less.”

    Since when is killing your offspring (for free, no less) a “fundamental human right”?

    • Chris Ranmore

      Just like I don’t get a say about whether my tax dollars get used to bomb villages in Afghanistan you don’t get a say in the reproductive lives of women.

    • Lolly

      A right for a woman to have autonomy over her own body and make her own reproductive decisions sure sounds like a fundamental human right to me. You want to give up your own decision making, fine. Don’t demand others to do the same,

      I really don’t care how much it costs. i know how vitally important it is to you for those naughty girls to be punished and shamed and to bear the “consequences” (at least that’s how pro-state-forced birth supporters phrase it), but some of us just aren’t into that.

    • citizenw

      1766 – Declaratory Act of the British Parliament

      “That the said [unrepresented] colonies and plantations in America have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependent upon the imperial crown and Parliament of Great Britain; and that the king’s Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”

      1789 – “District Clause” of the U.S Constitution

      “Congress shall have the Power…To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases
      whatsoever over such [unrepresented] District as shall become the seat of government…”

      In each case above a national legislature attempts to arrogate to itself Absolute
      Power (“in all cases whatsoever” ) over an unrepresented minority of
      the nation.

      DC is subjugated to the fifty states, run “in all cases whatsoever” by a Congress in which they are not even allowed to participate. Such enslavement is wrong.

    • OGalaxy

      I don’t want my tax dollars going toward unnecessary wars that kill innocent men, women, and children of other countries as well as young American soldiers. Those are actual people, not fetuses or embryos. I don’t see the pro-lifers doing anything to stop THOSE deaths. And as far as I can tell, most “pro-lifers” also support the death penalty. Contradict much?

      Furthermore, I don’t want my tax dollars in any way supporting religious institutions, especially religious institutions that interfere with American politics but don’t pay taxes because they “non-profits.” Our Constitution is supposed to separate church and state but we all just ignore that, don’t we? Plenty of tax dollars go to wars and churches.

      The point is, all of us pay tax dollars that in some way go to things we don’t believe in or even vehemently oppose. That’s the cost of living in America.

      It is a horrendous act to force a woman to give birth when she doesn’t want to. You might believe it’s a “person” but that is a belief not a scientific fact and you don’t have the right to force your beliefs on other women.

    • HeilMary1

      Since all fetuses can maim and murder their captive hosts, abortions will always be a human right of SELF-DEFENSE.

    • Arekushieru

      A fetus is neither innocent nor a human being.

      Yes, those exceptions being rape or endangerment of the woman’s health or life. Why is it okay to ‘murder’ an ‘innocent human being’ when the woman is raped or her life is in danger? When the woman is raped, after all, her bodily autonomy was violated JUST LIKE IT IS IN AN UNWANTED PREGNANCY. Therefore, you would want even MORE (NOT less) to force a woman to continue the pregnancy. SICK. In the case where it endangers the woman’s life, you are making arbitrary statements, which is apparently the reason you oppose the Pro-Choice position (because it’s ‘arbitrary’). Not only is it HYPOCRITICAL, it demonstrates your lack of understanding of rights, even your OWN interpretation of them. If you want the right to life to be extended where EVERYONE and EVERYTHING, under EVERY circumstance, has the right to life, then you would deem abortion murder, even when it was being performed to save the woman’s life. That lack of comprehension just underlines your hypocrisy.

      Finally, when you call abortion killing, you blame a woman for an ACCIDENT of BIOLOGY, specifically, fetal incompatibility with life upon separation from the uterus. When you have no SPECIFIC corollary for men, that is what exposes you as a MISOGYNIST.

      Hypocritical misogynist. Yup, sounds about right to antis.