Roe v. Wade recently turned 40, but states around the nation are pushing back — hard — trying to greatly limit women’s access to legal abortion. On Point’s Tom Ashbrook reports that just last week: “North Dakota joined the movement, passing the toughest restrictions on abortion in the country. Abortion forbidden from as early as six weeks. No abortion for disease or deformity. A state constitutional amendment lofted that would deny abortion even in the case of rape or incest.”
But here in Massachusetts — Cambridge, to be specific — we’re in our own little blue-state bubble of tolerance and reproductive rights for women (amen). Here, two local abortion-rights advocates report on a recent city council vote on the issue.
By Diane Roseman and Megan Smith
There is one part of the abortion story that tends to get less attention: the part about federal restrictions that prevent many women from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion.
The Hyde Amendment, originally passed by Congress only a handful of years after Roe v. Wade, withholds federal healthcare assistance funds for abortion. This means that millions of women who qualify for Medicaid, as well as federal employees, military service members, veterans and Peace Corps volunteers who receive their insurance from the federal government, are unable to use their insurance to cover the costs of an abortion.
Massachusetts is one of seventeen states that uses its own Medicaid funds to cover abortion care for women who qualify for them. But even here, many women, such as federal employees, are still faced with the realities of these restrictions.
Recently, the nonprofit Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, which provides resources to people unable to cover the full cost of their abortions, provided financial support to a Boston woman who works for the federal government and is already the mother of a four year old. She had become pregnant and could not continue the pregnancy, and was shocked when she found out that her health insurance did not cover abortion.
On Monday, April 1st, the Cambridge City Council — bucking the trend of many states that are limiting abortion rights — passed a resolution sponsored by Representative Marjorie Decker (largely symbolic) opposing federal and state restrictions on abortion funding. New York City, Travis County, TX, and the Philadelphia Board of Health passed similar resolutions earlier this year, and other cities across the country are poised to do the same. Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and former president of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, praised the City Council’s action, saying that: “In asserting that a woman should have the same access to reproductive health care services regardless of where her insurance comes from, the Cambridge City Council has displayed a forward-looking sensibility to the needs of women and families.”
As residents of Cambridge, we’re proud that our city is at the forefront of the movement to support comprehensive reproductive health care and we’re happy we live in a state that is committed to protecting women’s reproductive rights.
In order to live up to the promise of Roe v. Wade and ensure that all women are able to make decisions about their pregnancy that are right for themselves and their families, the federal government should follow Massachusetts’ lead and end these unfair restrictions on abortion care coverage.
Diane Roseman and Megan Smith are volunteers with the nonprofit Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund.