Days after worldwide Women’s Marches, the House of Representatives voted to pass bill H.R. 7. The Bill, also known as the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act,” is meant to curb abortion rights by banning the use of federal funding for abortion services except in extreme cases. The bill is an extension of the controversial Hyde Amendment.
The Hyde Amendment
Passed by the House of Representatives in 1976, the Hyde Amendment is a legislative provision that blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortion services. Three very narrow exceptions exist: if the pregnancy is a result from rape, incest, or if continuing the pregnancy will endanger the woman’s life. Medicaid is a federally funded health care program for families or people with limited resources. It provides free or low-cost health care to low income people.
The Hyde Amendment has had the biggest effect on those who rely on Medicaid for health services, namely low-income women, women of color, young people and immigrants. Unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, insurance does not cover abortions for those women on Medicaid. As a result, those women and families who are already low-income have to carry their babies to term and pay for the insurance costs out-of-pocket. Recent reports indicate the uninsured cost of having a baby is anywhere from $30,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth to $50,000 for a C-section.
How H.R. 7 Expands the Hyde Amendment
The Senate still needs to vote to pass H.R. 7 for it to become law, but if it passes, the Hyde Amendment extends to those people who receive their medical insurance plans by participating in the Affordable Care Act. Organizations like Planned Parenthood will no longer receive federal funding, even if the money is used for other health care services. The bill further makes the Hyde Amendment permanent. For the last 40 years since it was first proposed in 1976, the amendment has been subject to annual renewal. The Bill eliminates the need to approve the amendment year after year. The bill also provides incentives for private insurance companies to drop their abortion coverage.
Arguments For and Against the Bill
Proponents of the bill argue that taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used for abortions, especially if the individual taxpayer is pro-life. In this way, they contend that there should be a boundary between public and private dollars for such a controversial procedure. Opponents claim the Amendment and H.R. 7 places an undue burden on women who rely on Medicaid and government assistance for health care.
What Does This Mean for Women?
If passed by the Senate, H.R. 7 will not have a sweeping impact on all women. It will, however, impact women on Medicaid and who have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Women of color will be most impacted as they disproportionately comprise the majority of Medicaid enrollees. Recent statistics show that 30% of Black women and 24% of Hispanic women are enrolled in Medicaid. Comparatively, only 14% of white women are enrolled in Medicaid.
There are currently 25 states that already prohibit insurance providers from covering abortions. If H.R. 7 becomes law, it will pull federal funding for abortions in the remaining 25 states.
From a practical standpoint, the bill may force women who simply can’t afford to have an abortion to carry their pregnancy to term. These women could be consumed by unsurmountable debt from their medical care during pregnancy and the birth of their child. They likely will have to seek federal assistance (welfare) to support themselves and their child.
Women who are desperate to avoid paying prohibitively expensive insurance costs may seek more dangerous methods to abort their child. Such practices could threaten the life of the mother as well as the unborn child.