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

When abortion was illegal: Looking backward and forward at once

Have you heard the one about the back alley abortion?

Yeah, it isn’t a joke. And it sure as hell isn’t funny. It’s an actual question: Have you heard it? Roe v. Wade made abortion legal throughout the USA in 1973 – so as of the last census in 2010, slightly over 60% of the population never knew a time when abortion was illegal. And as the population ages, many of those people may never even have known anyone who lived through those dark, bloody times.

Federal judges on all levels are increasingly willing to deny women their reproductive rights. Appeals court judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would have denied access to abortion for an undocumented teenager, writing that undocumented youth in custody are not entitled to “abortion on demand” – favorite words of the anti-choice movement. His view didn’t prevail in the appeals court – but will it prevail, sooner or later, in the Supreme Court?

All of this means it’s time to tell the stories. Again.

Let’s start with this chart:

The number of deaths from abortion has declined dramatically since Roe v. Wade.

Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, Trends in Abortion in the United States, 1973-2000, January 2003.

Remember, there is no way to give an accurate number of deaths from illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade, because abortion was a crime and a scandal and abortion deaths were usually covered up. The National Abortion Federation estimates up to 1.2 million illegal abortions per year, with thousands of women who died or were grievously injured from back alley or self-induced abortions. And hospital emergency rooms stopped seeing these patients after abortion became legal.

But as with anything, statistics don’t tell the story. Human stories tell the story. As one article said about gathering the stories of Holocaust survivors, “The act of absorbing history often requires peering backward and forward at once,” and stories of illegal abortion matter for the same reason: so that we understand, and so that we never go back.

We ask you to share these stories. Tell people who don’t know what it was like. Tell your elected representatives that you’re not willing to give up any of your reproductive rights, and you’re not willing to accept judges who would be willing to compromise them:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: email(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: email(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

And if you have a story, or if you know someone who has a story, we invite you to share it hereAll submissions will come to us anonymously and we will publish everything anonymously. It’s crucial to show how many of these stories there are – so that we keep there from being more of them.

  • It was an honest to God back alley abortion, in an honest to God back alley, on a dirty kitchen table covered with a not very clean sheet. He had alcohol on his breath and his hand wasn’t very steady. He told her to spread her legs and told her not to spread them next time, which he found very funny. She had an infection and was horribly sick but she survived and later had a family. Some of her friends weren’t so lucky.
  • He was successful and well-known and nearly fifty when his elderly Irish Catholic mother told him: when he was a toddler, she and her husband just couldn’t afford another kid, and she had an abortion. She had never told anyone before, but the Supreme Court kept issuing anti-abortion rulings and people were telling their stories – and she asked him to tell hers.
  • It was the 1950s. She and her friends were young working women in New York. They had the name of a doctor in Pennsylvania who was very expensive but was supposed to be clean and reputable. When anyone in their crowd needed an abortion, they all pooled their money and went without lunch for a while. And the women who went to him came back. She said she had no idea what they would have done if they hadn’t had jobs and a support network.
  • It was the 1940s. She and her husband were Italian Catholic and dirt poor, and they had several very young children and couldn’t afford another. The illegal abortion killed her. In those days, when a mother died, the father rarely raised the children; at least one of the little girls was brought up by relatives who treated her badly, and when she had children, she had never really had a mother of her own.

And more:

  • The Academy Award-nominated documentary When Abortion Was Illegal features powerful stories of women who had abortions, their families, and the health care providers who witnessed the devastating effects of illegal abortion. Available here in English and Spanish, for purchase or on Vimeo.
  • Actress Sally Field discusses her illegal abortion in Tijuana in her recent memoir, In Pieces, and talks about it in her September 11, 2018 NPR interview.

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

Keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court

We know, you don’t need a singing elf on a unicorn to get you to oppose a Supreme Court nominee with a record against abortion rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, and common sense gun safety – but we’re giving you one anyway!

singing elf on unicorn

Brett Kavanaugh, nominated not long after the Fourth of July (ain’t irony great), has a record that’s all of the above. He is a “textualist,” an “originalist,” like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the Constitution must somehow be interpreted according to its text alone as written and intended by the Founding (white male slave-owning) Fathers. But most troubling of all, Kavanaugh has said that a sitting President should be exempt from criminal investigation and questioning, including questioning by prosecutors and defense counsel. No wonder Trump chose him!

Whether Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court for generations to come (he’s only 53 years old) is up to the Senate, and they need to hear from you: please call Senators Feinstein (202) 224-3841 and Harris (202) 224-3553 and ask them to do everything they can to block this nominee who would gut Roe v. Wade and give someone like Trump even greater executive power.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He would be a threat to our rights, our environment, and our protections against a dangerous administration. I want Senator ____ to speak out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, and to vote against him, and to persuade other Senators to vote against him.

Other things you can do:

  • #SaveSCOTUS Phone Banking. Sign up for an Indivisible National virtual phone bank to help flip crucial Senate seats in November. Training provided. All info & sign up for July 15 & 16 banks here.
  • Text banking with Resistance Labs: this is a fantastic resource – if the text banking to fight the Kavanaugh nomination has not yet gone live, sign up to be alerted when it’s ready to go!