In Some States, Access to Abortion Care Is Expanding

Last week, Girls actor Jemima Kirke shared her story of getting an abortion in 2007 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Rhode Island. Kirke explains in the video (below) that she decided to get an abortion after becoming pregnant with a boyfriend she wasn’t sure she wanted to be bound to long-term.

Kirke was a student at the time she became pregnant and didn’t have much money. She didn’t want to tell her mother and ask for financial help, so she had to empty her checking account to scrounge together enough money to pay for the procedure. Ultimately, she had to forgo anesthesia because she couldn’t afford it.

Now a mother of two girls, Kirke says she’s already anticipating the body-image issues her daughters will face, but hopes they won’t still be fighting for adequate reproductive care and the right to make decisions about their own bodies. “I would love if, when they’re older … the political issues surrounding their bodies were not there anymore,” she says. “I would hate to see them having to fight for rights.”

The good news is that access to abortion is actually expanding in some states. For most legislators, the goal is to prevent situations such as Kirke’s, where women can’t afford the care they need and have to make do with subpar options or forgo treatment altogether.

Though more anti-choice bills were enacted around the country between 2011 and 2013 than in the previous decade, legislators in states like Washington and Oregon have proposed bills that would require insurance providers to cover abortions as they would any other type of reproductive care. Said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, in a statement:.

Since 1976, millions of women in America who qualify for public insurance have endured government-sanctioned discrimination in access to abortion services. But there is a strong and growing movement underway to eliminate this disparity.

Many cities across the country have also moved to include abortion care in public insurance coverage. In Madison, Wisconsin, for example, the city council unanimously passed a resolution in March asking federal and state lawmakers to remove barriers to abortion care for women covered by public health insurance programs.

Said state Sen. Lisa Subeck (D), who was previously a Madison city counselor and sponsored the bill,

The amount of money a woman has should not prohibit her from having an abortion. We must not allow women and families to suffer simply because they cannot afford the health care they need. With this resolution, we are saying loud and clear: We will not look the other way.

According to Nora Cusack, treasurer of the Women’s Medical Fund in Wisconsin, “More than 5,000 Madison women of reproductive age currently enrolled in public insurance don’t have access to abortion coverage because of the [federal] Hyde Amendment [which bans federal funding for abortions].” Madison’s resolution—which calls for abortion coverage for public-service workers and women who use Medicaid—flies in the face of Wisconsin’s abortion laws, some of the harshest in the country.

Adds Cusack, summing up the sentiments of many feminists and reproductive-justice activists, “Politicians shouldn’t be allowed to deny a [woman] health coverage just because she’s poor.”

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Front page photo via Shutterstock



Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.