Repeal the Hyde Amendment for EACH Woman

In 1973, abortion was legalized throughout the US in Roe v. Wade. A short three years later, low-income women all over the country effectively had that right put out of reach by the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal Medicaid funding for almost all abortion services. The Hyde Amendment has been an impenetrable fortress in Congress year after year. But this might be the year it finally falls – thanks in large part to Members of Congress from the East Bay.

The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act would in effect overturn the Hyde Amendment. In the House, H.R. 771 is sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee, who first introduced it in 2015. Our other East Bay Representatives, Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier, have signed on as cosponsors. The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 12, 2019 as S. 758, with Senator Kamala Harris as an original sponsor. Senator Feinstein is not yet a cosponsor – however, she has a long history of being pro-choice. (IEB is talking to Sen. Feinstein’s staff about her position on the legislation and we’ll update this article as soon as we have any news.)

As the fact sheet about the EACH Woman Act says:

1. First, it sets up the federal government as a standard-bearer, ensuring that every woman who receives care or insurance through the federal government will have coverage for abortion services. The EACH Woman Act restores abortion coverage to those:

  • enrolled in a government health insurance plan (i.e., Medicaid, Medicare), including those who live in the District of Columbia;
  • enrolled in a government-managed health insurance program (i.e., FEHBP, TRICARE) due to an employment relationship; or
  • receiving health care from a government provider or program (i.e., Indian Health Services, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Administration).

2. Second, it prohibits political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care. Federal, state and local legislators will not be able to interfere with the private insurance market, including the insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, to prevent insurance companies from providing abortion coverage.

Said Senator Harris:

No woman should ever be denied her fundamental reproductive rights. The Hyde amendment disproportionately targets the most vulnerable populations. I’m proud to co-sponsor the EACH Woman Act, protecting reproductive rights and increasing access to critical health care for all women.

And Rep. Lee:

No woman should be denied the full spectrum of reproductive health care because of her zip code or income level – yet that is the reality for too many low-income women and women of color. The EACH Woman Act ensures that every woman is empowered to make critical decisions about her own pregnancy – and has coverage for all pregnancy-related health care, including abortion – regardless of her financial situation. I am proud to reintroduce this bill with the support of my colleagues and the trailblazing women leading the fight for reproductive justice around the country.

This push for pro-choice, pro-woman legislation is good news indeed. And the timing couldn’t be better, coming hard on the heels of the decision of the Sixth Circuit in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Hodges that the state can cut funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions. That decision was handed down by six judges, four of whom were appointed by the Current Occupant. Boys and girls, in case you haven’t figured it out by now – this is why voting matters.

What you can do:

You better believe that the anti-choice forces will be screaming about the EACH Woman Act, and will have their members screaming at all the cosponsors. Our MoCs need to hear from us that they’re doing the right thing. Thank them and tell them that part of the reason you support them is that they are pro-choice – and you want them to be proactive about it!

What to say:

For Senator Harris:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for sponsoring S. 758, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to keep being a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

For Senator Feinstein:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator Feinstein to cosponsor S. 758, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support Sen. Feinstein because she’s pro-choice and she’s been a strong advocate for women’s rights and reproductive rights. I hope she will sign on to S. 758 very soon.

For Representative Lee:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for sponsoring H.R. 771, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to keep being a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

For Reps. Swalwell and DeSaulnier:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for cosponsoring H.R. 771, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to be a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

IEB Delivers Message to Sen. Murkowski from Alaska’s Indivisibles: Vote No on Kavanaugh

When we heard that the difficult to pin down Senator Lisa Murkowski was slated to be the guest speaker at the August 2018 Tahoe Summit, which several Indivisible East Bay members planned to attend, we reached out to Indivisibles in Alaska to see if there was a message we could bring to the senator on their behalf.

Sen. Murkowski is one of the most likely swing votes on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. She regularly breaks with Republicans to vote to fund Planned Parenthood (though she has yet to break with them in support of a judicial nominee) and she has demonstrated willingness to stand up to Republican pressure on ACA repeal.

Twenty-nine of her constituents gave us a letter asking her to vote NO on Kavanaugh, saying,

Here in Alaska, we are terrified that under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of us would lose access to safe, effective health care and autonomy over our bodies. We fear that the brave men and women who take on tough and dangerous work to bring prosperity to their families and our state will lose their protections. And we worry that if the federal government, under this president, or a future president, takes action that harms Alaska and we take it to court, this Supreme Court will automatically decide against working Alaskans.

After almost being denied access to the event by some Nevada State troopers, we successfully delivered the letter to Sen. Murkowski as she was entering the event, and told her that Alaskans are counting on her. She was very polite and friendly and thanked us for giving it to her, though her staff was kind of rushing her past us. She said she was headed to Alaska tonight to have some meetings about Kavanaugh, but she did not say who those meetings were with – we hope they are with her constituents, a majority of whom believe the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Alaska Grassroots Alliance is collecting additional signatories to the letter we delivered here. Please share their petition with anyone you know in Alaska!

Photograph by Linh Nguyen

Say something, before the gag goes in

You have until July 31.

TL;DR: That’s the end of the period for you to comment on the “gag rule” that the Administration has proposed to try to destroy Planned Parenthood.

Of course, that’s not what the proposal says … in a nutshell, as the Sacramento Bee put it:

The proposal would deny federal Title X funds for birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease tests to any clinic that also provides abortions or even refers a patient for the procedure. Just to be clear, it’s already against the law to use federal money for abortion; Title X recipients undergo frequent audits to ensure their funds go where they’re supposed to.

Sound better? Nope. It’s still a blatant attempt to destroy Planned Parenthood and any other clinic that provides a full range of reproductive health services, if the clinic dares to provide, or discuss, or refer patients for abortion as well as keeping them from getting pregnant, keeping them healthy, or even seeing them through healthy pregnancies.

Your reproductive rights don’t mean much if you can’t exercise them. That means YOU need to speak up, and NOW. Here’s the comment link for Proposed Rule 2018-11673.

Some points you can make:

  • Title X focuses not on ending unwanted pregnancies, but preventing them. It’s the nation’s oldest family planning program.
  • More than a million low-income Californians, most of them women of color, annually use Title X health care.
  • Women’s health clinics are the only health care sources available in some rural areas of California.
  • This proposal would put the health care of the four million people who depend on Title X at risk by defunding clinics that provide birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease tests.
  • If enacted, the gag rule would prohibit ANY Title X health care provider from referring patients for abortion — even if that’s what the patient wants, and even if withholding that information threatens their health.
  • This would destroy the trust between patients and doctors.

Read our earlier article for more info.

Oh, and also: if you have any friends in Maine or Alaska, tell them to talk to Senators Collins and Murkowski, who could make the difference in whether an anti-choice Justice gets confirmed for the Supreme Court.

Spit out Trump’s “gag rule” – don’t make doctors lie to patients

More than any other, two social issues have defined the conservative political agenda: no gun control and no abortions. A cynic might interpret this as conservatives being more concerned about the rights of fetuses than protecting children in our schools from getting shot — but let’s put that aside for the moment. Instead, let’s focus on the latest proposed effort by Donald Trump to trample on a woman’s reproductive freedom: a “gag rule” executive order (presumably so named because it will make you want to throw up).

Roe v. Wade still remains the law of the land. But this has not stopped conservatives from passing legislation and issuing executive actions that restrict access to abortions to a point that comes dangerously close to functionally negating the Supreme Court decision, including limiting abortions to the first few weeks of pregnancy, requiring pregnant women to visit so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (that strongly advocate against choice) before they can terminate a pregnancy – even outright, unconstitutional criminalization of abortion – and the list goes on.

At the federal level, the battle over reproductive rights has centered on Title X funding. Enacted when Nixon was President (when – ironically – many of the social programs under attack today were created), Title X provides funding for family planning services, especially targeted to low-income or uninsured patients. Under the currently modified rules, such funds cannot be used to pay for an abortion. However, clinics that provide abortions can still receive Title X funds for non-abortion services, including contraceptives and Pap tests. They can also advise women about the risks vs. benefits of an abortion and refer women to places that provide abortions.

Congress has frequently sought to place more draconian limits on Title X funding, with an ultimate goal of preventing family planning services from even offering advice regarding an abortion. At dead center of these attacks is Planned Parenthood, which has been conservatives’ main target for years and years. The most recent proposed legislation cropped up as part of Congress’s ill-fated attempt to repeal Obamacare. Fortunately, this was not enacted.

Stymied in Congress, Donald Trump has inserted himself into the fray via a threatened executive action — a “gag rule” that would enforce domestically what is already the case for clinics outside the U.S. In essence, reproductive health providers would be required either to stop discussing abortion with their patients – most specifically, they would not be able to discuss abortion as an option or refer patients to abortion providers – or stop receiving Title X money.

According to an NPR report, the proposed executive order would also “require facilities receiving federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortion.” This could force the closing of facilities that currently provide both services within the same building.

While Trump had sent the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for review last week, he officially went public with it Tuesday night, announcing it at the Susan B. Anthony List’s 11th annual Campaign for Life Gala.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU previously filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over enacting “guidance” that forces family planning services to prioritize practices such as the rhythm method over alternative contraception methods. You can expect these organizations to similarly challenge the gag rule in court. While exact wording of Trump’s executive order remains uncertain for the moment, one thing is clear: If the gag rule is enacted, retaining federal funding will require that physicians essentially lie to patients regarding abortion options. That’s one big reason why the rule needs to be blocked.

Legislative opposition to this latest effort from Trump is strong and growing. On May 14, over forty senators, including both California senators (Feinstein and Harris), sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warning of the potentially disastrous impact of a domestic gag rule. More than a hundred members of the House sent a similar letter; Barbara Lee was one of the first to sign, and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell also signed, completing our East Bay contingent.

What you can do:

You can voice your opposition to the gag rule by emailing HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Here’s a suggestion for what to say:

Dear HHS Secretary Alex Azar,

I’m writing in opposition to President Trump’s announcement of a “gag rule” on health care providers that participate in Title X. If enacted, the gag rule would prohibit ANY Title X health care provider from referring patients for abortion — even if that’s what the patient wants, and even if withholding that information threatens their health. This would destroy the trust between patients and doctors. And it would put the health care of the four million people who depend on Title X at risk. I urge you to express your opposition to this rule.

You can also thank our Senators and Representatives for taking a prompt, strong stance on this important issue:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for signing on to the letter to the Department of Health and Human Services opposing a gag rule on health care providers receiving Title X funds. Women need need access to health care and they need to trust their health care providers to give them full and accurate information. The proposed gag rule would be dangerous and destructive. I’m counting on you to keep working to protect women’s health.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065