What Health Care Reform Means For Abortion

By Daisy Hernandez Mar 26, 2010

Now that Congress approved the “fixes” to the health care bill yesterday and Obama is set to sign off on that next week, we can all sit back this weekend and ask, “Did we really just win health care reform on the abortion issue?” The answer, of course, is yes. At the end of the day the close vote in the House last Sunday was not about the health care exchanges, the cost of expanding Medicaid or even the moronic idea that we’re going socialist. Those final votes were won on the basis of whether the federal government will help a Juanita in Iowa City pay for an abortion or not. The reality is that Black and Latina women are more likely than white women to be faced with an unplanned pregnancy. As a result, Black women are almost five times more likely than white women to seek out an abortion. So to find out what the new law means for the reproductive rights of women of color, I spoke with Eesha Pandit, the director of advocacy of The MergerWatch Project, an organization that tracks religious restrictions on health care across the country. Here’s what I took away from our talk: On Medicaid: More women will be able to access the program, however as the map shows, they’ll only be able to use it to pay for an abortion in 17 states including California, Washington and New York. That’s because those states have set up mechanisms for funding abortions with state, not federal, money. This means that in the South, for example, more Black women will be able to join Medicaid but will still be struggling to come up with the hundreds of dollars needed to terminate a pregnancy or to travel to the closest state with government-funded services.