by Claire Cooper, Legislative Associate at the Center for Reproductive Rights
Less than two months into 2013, state legislators around the U.S. are aggressively pursuing an anti-choice agenda that would severely undermine—and in some cases outright ban—reproductive health care services for women.
But despite some of these politicians’ efforts to chip away at women’s constitutional rights and deny women critical health care coverage, today we have a welcomed opportunity to celebrate the proactive leadership that several municipal bodies across the country are taking in support of women’s access to reproductive health care services.
Last Thursday evening, the Philadelphia Board of Health passed a resolution calling on President Barack Obama, members of the U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to maintain existing public funding for comprehensive reproductive health care and to repeal current discriminatory policies that deny coverage for abortion care.
The resolution makes a strong case that women—regardless of their income—deserve access to a full range of safe, affordable reproductive health care services throughout their life, “including cancer and sexually transmitted infection screenings, contraceptive services, abortion care, prenatal care, and labor and delivery services.”
The Board of Health recognizes that women enrolled in Medicaid are often unfairly denied coverage for comprehensive pregnancy-related care, including the 87,000 Philadelphia women of reproductive age utilizing public insurance. And this unfair denial of care has only been compounded by efforts on both the state and federal level to further restrict funding for family planning services—making it virtually unaffordable and far less accessible.
The Philadelphia Board of Health joins a growing list of municipal bodies that have passed similar affirmative resolutions this year. Just last month, the New York City Council passed a resolution to honor the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and also called on Congress to support funding for comprehensive reproductive health care. And in Texas, the Commissioner’s Court in Travis County passed a resolution to support women’s health care.
It is incredibly encouraging to see more public support from elected officials and policymakers when it comes to making reproductive health care more affordable for the women who desperately need it—because the damage of current restrictive policies is so clear.
In 2010, the Center published a report on the harmful impact of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Medicaid coverage of abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. The report highlighted the real-life impact of this discriminatory policy on women seeking abortion care, the financial and personal sacrifices they make to access this constitutionally protected health care service, and the importance of repealing the cruel denial of coverage to low-income women.
We applaud the Philadelphia Board of Health for taking a stand for women and recognizing the importance of funding for all pregnancy related health care. We hope that this trend of affirming women’s right to basic health care will continue to spread to municipalities throughout the U.S.—and that Congress and the President take up the invitation to fund the full range of reproductive healthcare services in Medicaid and other government programs.