21 states will soon ban insurance coverage of abortion

map of insurance abortion bans

Map via the ACLU. Click here to hover for more info on each state.

Bans on insurance coverage of abortion didn’t really became a thing until recently. The vast majority of private insurance plans covered abortion, as they would any common medical procedure, and no made any fuss about it. But then the debate over health care reform happened and ultimately opened up the possibility for states to ban all abortion coverage in the new health exchanges.

And, as expected, many states have seized on that opportunity, extending the bans to private insurance as well. At least 21 states have passed legislation to stop insurance companies from paying for abortion; in 8 states, no one can get a plan that covers the procedure.

This state of affairs was made possible because during the health care reform fight the Hyde Amendment, which has denied insurance coverage of abortion to poor women, public employees, military families, and Native Americans for decades, was positioned as the status quo. As Rep. Stupak himself said recently, “I was just trying to keep the Hyde Amendment as it always has been.” While that’s not exactly the case, it’s true that Hyde set the precedent that it’s acceptable to single out abortion from the rest of our reproductive health care needs.

But what if we stopped agreeing with that? Writing at RH Reality Check, my former coworkers at the National Institute for Reproductive Health see an opportunity for local elected officials to proactively stand up for abortion access at the city level.

But what if elected officials strongly and unequivocally spoke out in support of insurance coverage for abortion? What if they went on record declaring that a woman needs access to a range of safe, affordable reproductive health care services throughout her life, including abortion care? And that all women, regardless of income, need insurance coverage to access these services so that economic barriers do not dictate critical health care decisions? What if they called on Congress to stop withholding coverage for abortion care for qualified women?

City officials–who often see first-hand the disastrous effects of anti-choice policies–may be better positioned to advance pro-choice programs that are political untenable at the state and federal levels. And, hopefully eventually, city-by-city, “the quiet acquiescence that reinforces the Hyde Amendment’s ban on coverage just might start to disintegrate.”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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