Exclusive: Barbara Lee and Tammy Duckworth Introduce Legislation to Equalize Abortion Access

Exclusive: Barbara Lee and Tammy Duckworth Introduce Legislation to Equalize Abortion Access

Democratic women of color in the House and the Senate announced the introduction of legislation to stop the federal government from suffocating the right to abortion for women of color, poor women, and federal employees.

I was super excited and proud to be part of the phone press pool joining Rep. Barbara Lee, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and other leaders of the movement for women’s reproductive rights with the All* Above All campaign as they sought to unveil groundbreaking abortion rights legislation. And they did not disappoint.

The EACH Woman Act - to be introduced in the House for the third time and in the Senate for the first time thanks to the leadership of Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. The legislation, in full the Equal Access To Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, seeks to tear up the curse of the Hyde Amendment to ensure full access and funding for reproductive health care, including access to safe abortion, for women of color, poor women, women in the military, federal workers, and women in federal prisons.

The legislation goes further than simply repealing the Hyde Amendment, however. A simple repeal of the Hyde Amendment would essentially constitute Congressional silence on the matter of abortion coverage, and thus anti-choice administrations like the present one would be able to mandate it through executive action. The EACH Woman act anticipates it and takes the following steps:

  • Affirmatively ensure that all women enrolled in government health care plans (Medicaid, Medicare), government-managed plans (Tri-Care, Federal Employee Health plans) as well as those receiving care from a government provider (Indian Health Services, Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Administration) have full coverage for abortion services.

  • Ban federal, state and local legislators from interfering with the decisions of private health insurance companies with regard to abortion coverage. 35 states currently prevent Medicaid from providing abortion coverage, and 25 ban insurance companies from doing the same.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is the original sponsor in the House, with the entire Pro-Choice Caucus, led by Rep. Diana Degette, behind her. This year’s legislation is likely to look like past versions, but has a much better chance to pass in the House, with a true pro-choice majority, Rep. Degette said.

The path through the GOP-controlled Senate is less clear, Duckworth admitted. Nevertheless, with strong messaging and with vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020 in pro-choice states, a senate vote is not entirely inconceivable. Even if the bill did not become law under a Trump administration, its passage would mark the first time since the Hyde amendment that a house of Congress has rebuked it, and it would clear the way for equal abortion coverage in a Democratic administration after 2020.

Congresswoman Degette also confirmed to me that abortion coverage would “necessarily have to be a part” of any health care legislation Democrats move through Congress under a new presidency, including any Medicare for All legislation.



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