Sexual assault survivors and women whose lives are at risk unable to access abortion funding

An article in the upcoming June issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health confirms what reproductive health care providers have known anecdotally for a long time: even Medicaid funds for abortion allowed under exceptions in the Hyde Amendment are overwhelmingly difficult to access.
The Hyde Amendment bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, the only procedure explicitly excluded from Medicaid coverage. Exceptions exist only in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest or endangers the woman’s life. Yet even in these cases many women cannot access funds. Ibis Reproductive Health conducted research into the actual availability of funds in these cases which led to the article in Perspectives. From the organization:

Ibis Reproductive Health interviewed abortion providers about their experiences working with Medicaid to obtain coverage for abortions in these limited cases in order to examine the impact of restrictive funding polices on low-income women. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with representatives of 25 abortion providers in six states that limit Medicaid funding to the restrictions imposed by the Hyde Amendment (FL, ID, KS, KY, PA, WY). They found that of the 245 reported abortions that should have qualified for Medicaid reimbursement in the year prior to their interview, only 102–less than half–were actually covered–and 97% of those were in one state.
Respondents reported that administrative burdens, including excessive staff time needed to manage claims, cumbersome claims procedures, and ill-informed Medicaid staff, hampered their efforts to seek reimbursement. Bureaucratic Medicaid policies and procedures led to delays for women in obtaining abortions and also meant women had to delay treatment for life-threatening conditions such as cancer and HIV. In addition, some women were prevented from obtaining abortions. Because of the excessive burden of applying for Medicaid reimbursement in these limited cases, many providers said they have “given up” on working with Medicaid.
Under the new US health care reform law, even more women–including those newly eligible for Medicaid, as well as those who purchase health plans with federal subsidies–may be denied access to abortion care. “The Medicaid system is broken. If women who fall under the ‘exceptional’ cases cannot get Medicaid to pay for their abortions now, the problem will only get worse as more women are affected by restrictions in the new health care system,” said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health.

The very limited exceptions in the Hyde Amendment are often used to defend the ban on the use of federal funds for abortion. Yet this research shows that in practice the ban extends to many women who become pregnant as the result of rape or incest or whose lives are endangered by their pregnancies. This is terrible news when it comes to the expansion of Hyde that was pushed through health care reform.
It’s well past time we got rid of these funding restrictions. Click here to take action to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    I have experienced Medicaid’s infuriating ineptitude myself. If the program is to be expanded, it MUST be adequately funded, adequately staffed, and simplified.
    Complications in the existing system cause delays, but an overburdened staff which usually is further hampered by frequent turnover makes a bad situation even worse. This has got to change, and quickly.