In early July, along with a coalition of women’s health, rights and justice groups, 72 Congressional Democrats introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that could produce a major shift in how women pay for their abortions. The EACH Woman Act is aimed a repealing the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 policy that prevents women with government-funded health insurance from using their coverage to pay for abortions. Hyde impacts women who are on Medicaid and Medicare, who use Indian Health Service insurance, are in the military, or who work for the federal government. Hyde forces millions of women, either low-income, disabled, Native, or employed by the government, to have to pay out of pocket for abortion procedures that can range anywhere from $300 to $3,000, depending on the state, clinic and medical needs. The EACH legislation also aims to make sure women with private insurance also have abortion coverage.
That the Hyde Amendment has remained intact for more than 40 years is related to politicians’ and advocates’ perception that the public doesn’t support the use of “taxpayer funding” for abortions, a narrative promoted heavily by the pro-life movement, but also used by Democratic legislators. “Historically, people have always felt it’s a losing issue," says Destiny Lopez, co-director of All* Above All, the public-facing arm of the coalition that advanced the EACH Act.
To find out what the public actually thinks, the group conducted a new survey. The most significant finding from the poll, which surveyed 950 respondents via phone (both cell and landline), was that 86 percent of voters agree (including 68 percent who strongly agree) with the statement, "However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.” In addition, 56 percent of the respondents said they would “support a bill that would require Medicaid to cover all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.”
While the EACH legislation isn’t likely to move far in a Republican-dominated House (none of the 72 co-sponsors of the bill are from the GOP), the poll has the potential to advance a new narrative. "This has always been a third-rail issue, and this poll blows that wide open,” says Lopez. “We can actually be talking about this because the support is out there.”
Hyde restrictions have long been seen as disproportionately affecting women of color, who are more likely to receive Medicaid than white women.
The All*Above All poll asked respondents about their race, income level and age, and 27 percent claimed a race other than white. Molly O’Rourke, a partner at the firm that conducted the poll, Hart Research, says the small sample size of non-white respondents means that the poll doesn’t say much about what people of color think about the issue.
Past polling by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) showed that 61 percent of Latinos “agree that the amount of money a woman has or does not have should not determine whether she could have an abortion when she needs one.”
All* Above All’s Lopez says the current survey stands out because it is narrowly focused on funding. Other groups supportive of abortion access, like NLIRH, have released public polls that look more broadly at public attitudes toward abortion, birth control and sex education. “We have not seen numbers like these in our previous internal polling, even though it was incredibly successful,” says Lopez.
The release of the All* Above All poll and the introduction of the EACH Act shows how reproductive justice groups are taking the offensive instead of reacting to the myriad attacks on abortion access seen in recent years. ‘This is what we want the world to look like,” explains Lopez. “We want everyone to have access, no matter their insurance, to the full range of reproductive health care including abortion.”