- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pro-choice lawmakers in the U.S. House are taking aim at the federal provision that for decades has blocked taxpayer-funded federal health programs from paying for abortions.

“It’s past time to repeal [the] Hyde” amendment, said Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, who was joined by numerous other members of Congress at a press conference Wednesday.

Their new bill, called Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Heath Insurance or EACH Woman Act, would ensure health coverage for abortion in federally funded health care programs, including Medicaid, which serves low-income populations.

“Each and every day, the rights of women are under attack in America. Today, we push back because every person has a right to health care,” said Ms. Lee. According to supporters, the bill has more than 70 co-sponsors, but all are Democrats — not a good sign for a bill in a Republican-majority chamber.

Yamani Hernandez, executive director of National Network of Abortion Funds, said the Hyde amendment has brought “terrible wrongs” to poor women since 1976.

The Hyde amendment, named for late Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, is actually a rider attached to health care appropriations bills since 1976. It says federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or where the woman’s physical life is in danger.

Abortion-rights supporters said Wednesday that because of the Hyde provision, one in four women who wanted an abortion but lived in states where Medicaid funding was restricted had her baby because she couldn’t afford an abortion.

The new bill would also prohibit political interference in decisions by private health insurance companies regarding abortion care.

“As a Catholic, my social justice tradition calls me to speak up for the conscience rights of all people — particularly the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “In fact, the majority of American Catholic voters believe insurance — whether public or private — should cover abortion services in certain cases.”

A Hart Research poll of 950 voters released at Wednesday’s press conference said 86 percent of voters agreed with the statement that, “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.”

The All Above All campaign, joined by feminist and youth organizations, applauded the bill.

Pro-life groups, in contrast, have coalesced behind a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which is sponsored by Reps. Christopher Smith, New Jersey Republican, and Daniel Lipinski, Illinois Democrat.

That bill, H.R. 7 — which passed the House in January — would “make permanent the life-affirming principles of the Hyde Amendment” to the Affordable Care Act and other federally funded health care programs operating in states and the District, said Americans United For Life.

A companion bill, S. 582, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi Republican.

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