Speaking of Women's Rights...: Seattle to Join National Movement Affirming a Woman's Right to Abortion Shouldn't Be Decided by How Much Money She Makes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Seattle to Join National Movement Affirming a Woman's Right to Abortion Shouldn't Be Decided by How Much Money She Makes

By Jenny Dodson Mistry

Since 1976, federal dollars have been withheld from covering abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant woman. That precludes even a health exception for women who qualify for federal insurance plans, jeopardizing the well-being of women with serious medical complications during pregnancy.

These unfair limitations are imposed not only on families who use Medicaid, but also on women who qualify for other government-sponsored insurance programs, including military personnel, female veterans who receive coverage from the VA, federal employees, Native American women who utilize the Indian Health Service, women in federal prison and Peace Corps volunteers.

Discrimination in benefits for eligible women threatens what is, for many, an already precarious financial situation. The unexpected expense of an abortion can have devastating consequences, particularly on low-income families who already struggle to pay for basic necessities like food and rent.

Out of frustration with this insidious inequality in access to reproductive health care that effectively puts abortion out of reach for many women, a national movement to restore funding for abortion has evolved. Cities across the country are leading that charge, both through grassroots efforts and local government action. On the grassroots front, the All* Above All “Be Bold Road Trip” is traveling to cities across the nation, engaging scores of activists who are fed up with politicians withholding health care benefits from women for political reasons.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health has worked with cities and localities across the country— such as Travis County, Texas; New York City; Philadelphia; and Cambridge, Massachusetts—to pass local resolutions advocating for coverage of all pregnancy-related care, including annual check-ups, prenatal care, maternity care, family planning and abortion. We are so excited that Seattle could be next on that list! Seattle City Council is currently considering a resolution urging President Obama and Congress to repeal all federal bans on public coverage of abortion. Championed by Councilmember Bruce Harrell and sponsored by Legal Voice and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, this resolution would encourage federal lawmakers to reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services for women enrolled in public insurance programs—including the more than 4,000 Seattle women of reproductive age insured through the federal government.

The State of Washington is already a leader on this issue, as one of just 17 states that uses its own funds to provide coverage for abortion. By calling on the federal government to follow its example, Seattle is seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the full impact that autonomy in medical decisions has not only on women’s health, but also on the economic stability of our most vulnerable communities.

By joining the growing chorus of communities calling for decisive action to eliminate health care inequality, Seattle is taking a bold stand to improve the lives of women across all 50 states.


Jenny Dodson Mistry is the Manager of Local Initiatives at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, where she gets the opportunity to support organizations doing proactive work on the city and county level all across the country. She is inspired by the resolute and creative activists that have made cities a beacon for the progressive movement, and in her spare time, likes to travel to as many of these cities as she can.

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Do you want to take a stand and affirm the idea that all women deserve access to insurance coverage of abortion? Here's how you can get involved:
- Talk about it: Tell your family, friends, and Congress why this issue matters to you. Join us in a Tweet Storm on Thursday, September 4, from 1-2 p.m. PDT. For sample social media posts, please email Sarah MacDonald, Legal Voice Marketing & Communications Manager.

- Write a Council Member: The best way to ensure decisions coming out of your local city council are aligned with your values is to tell your local council members what your values are! We encourage you to write to Seattle City Council Members and tell them why they should pass this resolution. Whether you share a personal story or use our sample letter (also available by emailing Sarah), your voice matters.

- Sign the petition: Join the national movement by signing All* Above All's petition asking members of Congress to support lifting all restrictions on coverage of abortion care.