Editor’s Note: With this post we welcome Sharon Lerner to two weeks of blogging on the GOP’s sustained and multi-pronged attack on women’s reproductive health and rights.
I am relieved for the opportunity to blog on reproductive health and politics. The moment is ripe for ranting, though even writing regularly I know it’ll be impossible to convey the enormity and depth of the bad news coming out of Washington and the states. I already feel like Lucille Ball working the chocolate factory conveyor belt.
Would that we were talking about a madcap comedy, of course, with only candy at stake. Instead the restrictions on abortion and contraception spewing forth daily would have a serious impact on actual people. Who? At the risk of missing a fresh, new torrent of bad news, I’m going to take a moment to focus on who exactly will be affected by the three major bills coming out of Washington.
The first, Chris Smith’s “No Taxpayer Funds for Abortion” act, is being marked-up by the House Judiciary Committee as I write. Though the discussion of tax credits versus subsidies versus tax deductions is stultifying, I was riveted by the hearing if only for the seemingly endless shots of female aides sitting silently in the background as male superiors grind out the sausage of abortion law.
You may know Smith’s bill, H.R. 3, for its attempt to deny some rape victims access to abortion. Though that particular provision was removed, the current proposal would essentially do away with private insurance coverage for abortion. To return to the question at hand, who will feel this blow? With abortions costing between $350 and $500 in the first ten weeks of pregnancy—and going up steeply from there—the answer is poor women.
The other big federal anti-abortion proposals take aim at exactly the same low-income population. The “Protect Life Act,” proposed by Representative Joe Pitts would prevent women from using their own money to purchase private health insurance that includes abortion coverage. Some women will always be able to afford abortions, even if they can’t get a policy that covers them. But a huge portion of the 15 million uninsured women who stand to gain health insurance through the new health care law would struggle to pay for an abortion on their own, as they’d have to if this bill passes. A quarter of single mothers stand to gain health coverage through the new law, as do three-quarters of women who are either “poor” or “near poor” and almost four-in-ten Latinas, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Meanwhile, Mike Pence’s various efforts to defund Planned Parenthood also target the same women of color, who make up the majority of the 3 million Americans the organization serves. Ditto for his broader effort to zero out federal Title X dollars. Guess who relies on the clinics that receive these family planning funds?