Abortion is healthcare, and access to healthcare is a human right everyone is entitled to, no matter their income, hometown, race or gender—and now more than ever, the American people agree with this.
Abortion was one of the defining issues of the midterm elections. It was the number one issue for almost one-third of all voters according to exit polls, and every single ballot initiative addressing abortion was a resounding victory. (“It turns out women enjoy having human rights, and we vote,” Hillary Clinton tweeted.)
But this does not change the Dobbs decision and the fall of Roe v. Wade, which has decimated abortion access throughout the U.S., with at least 13 states banning most abortions.
Globally, this decision will continue to wreak havoc as anti-rights actors are emboldened, abortion stigma increases, and countries that have relied on U.S. law to liberalize their own laws face increased challenges. We are at a precipice, and global advocates for reproductive freedom must stand united against this erosion of fundamental rights. The Supreme Court has failed not just people living in red states, but millions around the world in countries that rely on U.S. foreign assistance to provide healthcare to their people.
Now is the time for President Biden to act—to do everything in this administration’s power to increase access to abortion at home and abroad. That starts today with the president’s 2024 budget being free of all abortion funding and coverage restrictions, including the Hyde, Helms and Weldon Amendments.
Since it was first passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been expanded to include coverage bans on many other groups of people, including federal employees and their dependents, military personnel and their dependents, people in federal prisons and immigrant detention centers, and Native Americans, and Peace Corps volunteers.
Every year, Congress uses the Hyde Amendment to ban abortion coverage for people working to make ends meet, and the harm falls hardest on people who are already marginalized by our healthcare system, including women of color, young people, transgender and non-binary people. It is unconscionable to force someone to carry an unwanted pregnancy—and yet that’s what the Hyde Amendment does for too many people working to make ends meet.
Restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four low-income women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
The Weldon Amendment is a harmful rider that works alongside Hyde to interfere with abortion coverage and care. Patient health must always come first, but Weldon—like other refusal of care laws—emboldens policies that prioritize personal and religious beliefs over patient health and interferes with states attempting to protect and expand abortion access.
Weldon has been weaponized against states and local governments that want to protect access to abortion care. On their way out the door, the Trump administration used Weldon to try and deprive Californians of hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding—in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—because of a state policy ensuring that insurance policies cover abortion care, just like other pregnancy-related care.
Patients’ ability to access healthcare should never be restricted based on the beliefs of others—especially in the midst of the ongoing reproductive healthcare crisis.
‘The U.S. Is a Superpower’
Over the past 25 years, nearly 50 countries around the world have liberalized their abortion laws in an effort to address the devastating rates of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion. And in recent years, the “Green Wave” of abortion rights activism has swept through Latin America, previously home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, leading to major victories for abortion access in countries like Argentina and Mexico.
But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 24 to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed the right to legal abortion in the U.S., is threatening that progress. The fall of Roe is being felt in other countries, too.
“It worries us,” said a young reproductive health champion in Kenya. “The U.S. is a superpower. The decisions it makes on the issue of protecting a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion can greatly affect our state of reproductive health in Kenya.”
These concerns are justified: Shortly after Roe was reversed, the Kenyan government launched a 10-year national plan for reproductive healthcare. The new plan does not address the need to expand access to safe, legal abortion. This has left Kenyan sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates frustrated, saying their voices and input into the plan were ignored.
Abortion opponents in Kenya and elsewhere are now pushing even harder to restrict abortion. Across Latin America, the reversal of Roe gives the anti-abortion movement more momentum and legitimacy. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling “will mark a legal precedent that will be a point of reference for all experts in constitutional law around the world,” said Sara Larín of the VIDA SV Foundation in El Salvador. Despite this devastating ruling, the U.S. can support access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion, at home and abroad.
We are grateful for President Biden’s leadership that has led to the historic removal of the Hyde Amendment in the president’s 2022 and 2023 budgets. But the time to remove all abortion riders—both those that impact access to abortion at home and abroad—is now.
President Biden said of the Hyde Amendment: “If I believe healthcare is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.” We urge the President Biden to mark his presidency with a clear statement that discriminatory abortion coverage bans and other abortion funding restrictions have no place in our public policy, by eliminating all such restrictions from his 2024 budget. This will send a strong message of leadership to Congress and the country that everyone should be able to decide when and how to start a family—however much money they make, the type of insurance they have, who their provider is or where they live.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.