Susan Tew/Chris Kirchgaessner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 14, 2000
Restrictions On Public Funding Deny Reproductive Choice To Poor Women
Medicaid coverage of abortion--or the lack of it--has a considerable impact on whether poor women are able to exercise their right to choose abortion to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, according to the new analysis "Rights Without Access: Revisiting Public Funding of Abortion for Poor Women." The analysis, by public policy analysts Heather Boonstra and Adam Sonfield, published in the April 2000 issue of The Alan Guttmacher Institute's Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, reviews two decades of political debate and legislative activity over funding for abortion, starting with the 1977 Hyde Amendment. The authors also examine the findings of published research measuring the impact of restricted funding for abortion on the six million women of reproductive age who obtain health care through the Medicaid system. They conclude: "Research shows that women who are able to raise the money needed for an abortion do so at a great sacrifice to themselves and their families." Further, funding restrictions force some women to have children they feel unable to support and others to delay having an abortion. These restrictions also cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually in medical and other costs.
Currently, federal funding is available for abortion only in cases of rape and incest and life endangerment. In 1997, the policy was tightened to permit payment only when the woman's life is threatened by "a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself" (discounting the threat of mental health disorder, injury or illness). Just 16 states currently have a policy to use their own funding to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions (those necessary to protect a woman's health, under the broad definition in the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Doe v. Bolton).
The authors also report on a new grassroots public health initiative--the Campaign for Access and Reproductive Equity--being launched in May 2000 to address policies that impede poor women's ability to care for themselves and their families, including the inequity evident in the Hyde Amendment.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute is a nonprofit organization focused on reproductive health research, policy analysis and public education, with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.
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