Abortion Coverage Restriction Threatens Obamacare Funding

Republican Congress members are attempting to restrict abortion access by introducing language in a federal bill that would block funding to private insurance companies if they provide abortion coverage. 

Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse because this bill would ultimately lower insurance premiums through the Affordable Care Act, which would be a good thing given the rise in insurance costs. And from a Democrat’s perspective, successfully passing a bipartisan deal to stabilize the ACA for the next three years is a victory given the GOP’s unwavering mission to dismantle universal healthcare access.

The bipartisan bill could fund cost-sharing reduction subsidies for four years, which means healthcare costs would be less expensive for low-income ACA recipients. There could be a new class of health insurance plans, called “copper,” which would allow anyone, regardless of their age. to enroll in a cheaper, less robust plan, which is important for healthy individuals who may not otherwise enroll in health insurance. And governors could be allowed to apply for federal waivers to expand ACA enrollment in their states.

However, there’s no victory when abortion restriction is on the line. Republicans want to expand the Hyde Amendment’s reach. Currently, under Hyde, no federal money can be used to pay for abortions. We know this is an attack on low-income women, who receive federal benefits through programs like Medicaid and therefore cannot exercise their full reproductive rights when laws restrict their economic access to healthcare. This federal bill would expand Hyde by prohibiting federal funding to private insurance companies that provide abortion coverage, essentially penalizing these companies for subsidizing essential healthcare for women.

Republicans’ commitment to expand Hyde stems from ACA debates in 2009, which eventually led to President Obama compromising by passing an executive order reinforcing the Hyde Amendment. Today’s debate feels like deja vu. There’s potential to make healthcare more affordable, yet anti-choice legislators are caught up on blocking abortion access.

Democrats are not giving in to Republicans’ anti-choice legislation, and this bill will likely not pass unless the abortion restriction is kept out. Elsewhere, Republicans continue to push their  anti-abortion agenda. In the last three months alone, we’ve seen at least 10 states limit abortion, and recently Mississippi passed a 16 week abortion ban, Ohio introduced a bill to ban abortion, and Idaho will require an absurd stipulation that women seeking abortions must be informed that abortifacient procedures could be stopped halfway, which is false.

Image creditJ. Scott Applewhite Photography/AP

Amanda R. Matos, proud Nuyorican from the Bronx, NY, is the co-founder of the WomanHOOD Project, a Bronx-based youth-led organization for young women of color. She is dedicated to empowering communities of color through capacity building, political education, and civic engagement. Amanda has led community organizing and policy initiatives at Planned Parenthood of New York City and Girls for Gender Equity. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a Sheila C. Johnson Fellow. On her free time, Amanda eats doughnuts and watches great TV shows like Jane the Virgin and Blackish.

Amanda R. Matos is a community organizer and reproductive justice activist from the Bronx, NY.

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