Boston City Council votes on women’s health insurance coverage

The Boston City council voted 12-0 on Sept. 28 on a resolution urging Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment and provide federal funding for abortions with government health coverage.

The Hyde Amendment is a legislative provision barring the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. The Hyde Amendment is not a permanent law, but rather is a rider that has been routinely attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976. Legislation including the Hyde Amendment generally restricts the use of funds allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services and primarily affects Medicaid.

Councilor at-large Ayanna Pressley, who sponsored the measure, said even in Massachusetts, which provides coverage to women who are on Medicaid, some women have to pay full price for abortions, such as women in the military or Peace Corps.

“There are still women and trans-people who call Boston home, who live in our Commonwealth, but who face barriers to abortion care because they are insured through other public insurance programs like the Peace Corps, Indian Health Services and military insurance programs,” Pressley said.

Boston is now the 10th city to pass an ordinance against the amendment this year.

Several organizations applauded the city council for the decision.

“Every woman — regardless of her income, race or ZIP code — should have the ability to make personal decisions about her health and abortion without politicians wedging themselves between her and her doctor,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, in a statement. “As a family physician, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact inadequate insurance coverage can have on a person and their health and well-being. Denying insurance coverage for abortion, as the Hyde Amendment does, is an intrusive and discriminatory restriction that harms women and their families.”

Others felt that Boston was standing up for people of all economic statuses.

“We are proud that Boston is standing up and leading the nation for the right of poor people to have equal access to reproductive care,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, in a statement. “No one should be treated differently based on their economic status.”

“Today, The Boston City Council put reproductive freedom first,” said Christian Miron, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in a statement. “We are proud of the Boston City Council for taking action and affirming the right for all to access safe, legal abortion care, regardless of income or ZIP code.”

Similar resolutions about lifting restrictions on abortion coverage have passed in recent years in localities across the country, including Cook County, Ill.; Madison, Wis.; Seattle, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; New York, NY; Philadelphia, Penn.; Travis County, Texas; Ithaca, NY; and San Francisco, Calif.

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About Sara Brown

Sara Brown is the Sampan health editor.
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