For many of us, our Judaism is inseparable from our belief in social justice and from the understanding that personal autonomy is sacred. This interweaving of faith and justice sometimes compels us to act and speak out in the face of unfairness. My Jewish faith has also been instrumental in shaping my unyielding belief that every woman has the right to choose her reproductive path. In the face of longstanding barriers to abortion access and ever-expanding efforts to restrict a woman’s right to make her own decision about whether and when to become a parent, I feel compelled to speak out.
Sept. 30, 2016, marks 40 years of the Hyde Amendment, a federal restriction passed by Congress every single year as part of the federal appropriations process, denying abortion coverage to women enrolled in most federal health plans and programs. This ban has had the effect of turning a constitutional right into a privilege reserved for those with financial resources.
While the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in June overturned state restrictions that, in effect, caused providers to shut their doors, many women are still unable to access abortion services because of their financial status, where they live, or how they are insured. The Hyde Amendment and similar restrictions on health insurance coverage for abortion remain among the harshest remaining barriers to abortion access.
For 40 years, coverage bans have disproportionately affected poor women, women of color, and young women and have had devastating consequences. Moreover, a woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get an abortion. Coverage bans like the Hyde Amendment enshrine particular religious views into law, threatening the moral autonomy that individuals and communities across the country hold dear. We each have the right to make personal decisions guided by our own religious beliefs, without politicians interfering.
It is time for us to evolve into a nation that values the right of all people to make their own decisions about their health. And I’m not the only one who thinks this way: A 2015 poll conducted on behalf of All* Above All, a national campaign dedicated to repealing Hyde, found that a majority of voters — 56 to 40 percent — would support a bill such as the one introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) last year to lift the Hyde Amendment and ensure that Medicaid cover all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
On this 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, I add my voice to the chorus of advocates across the country who are speaking out in support of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act — bold new federal legislation that would bring about an end to federal bans on abortion coverage, including the Hyde Amendment. The EACH Woman Act would also end local, state, and federal political interference in the decisions of private health insurers to offer abortion coverage. I thank NJ representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Dist. 12), Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6), Donald Norcross (D-Dist. 1), and Donald Payne (D-Dist. 10) for cosponsoring this legislation, and call on the remaining NJ representatives to add their names as well. Every woman should be able to make her own faith-informed decision about abortion, no matter her income, insurance, or where she lives.
It’s time for all of us to be bold and end Hyde. •