The Beat Goes On
They were law students, English students, clinic workers, community organizers, exchanging their piercings and bright colored sneakers for conservative business suits and sensible pumps. Only a few had gray hair, or were alive when the Roe V. Wade came down from the Supreme Court legalizing abortion nationwide – or when only a few years later the Hyde Amendment eliminated federal Medicaid funding for these procedures.
One hundred seventy women, most of them young (and a few men) had come to Washington, DC last week, in the last few days that Congress was in session prior to the mid-term elections break, under the auspices of a national reproductive justice campaign All Above All. Organizational supporters included the Unitarian Universalist Association (under whose auspices I was invited), Law Students for Reproductive Justice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and dozens of other groups.
These delegates were passionate, committed, determined and unafraid to go beyond asking that abortions remain safe and legal. Abortion, they urged, should be covered under insurance plans, private and public, with the goal of ensuring that no matter how much a woman earns, the option of abortion is available. Defunding these procedures should no longer be regarded without question as the permanent law of the land.
Of the gathered activists, some had also gone on a 10,000 mile,12 city and eight state BraveMobile tour this summer promoting this initiative to restore and sustain abortion coverage for low-income women. Along the way they gathered 40,000 supporters on Facebook, 100,000 on email, and a total of 130,000 signers of a petition to lift coverage bans.
Their goal was and is to gain grassroots support for what is indeed a Be Bold effort to remind Congress and the general public that defunding abortion coverage was not set in stone, but language added annually to the budget act. To point out that nearly one out of seven women of reproductive age are insured through Medicaid, half of them people of color. That restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Not only does Medicaid currently bar coverage of abortion, other restrictions include the use of government funds to provide coverage for federal employees and military personnel, for federal prison inmates, women in detention centers, military veterans and Native American women.
While there is no legislation drafted to restore this funding, members of Congress and others are being asked to sign a declaration to lift restrictions on abortion coverage, pledging that every woman should have affordable and comprehensive health insurance so she can make personal health decisions based on what is best for her and her family, without political interference.
Bold and Brave advocacy indeed.
Next Week: New talking points and message frames for reproductive justice.