Stupak's Abortion Restrictions: Dividing Women Between Haves and Have-Nots

What Women Really Think
Nov. 9 2009 9:54 AM

Stupak's Abortion Restrictions: Dividing Women Between Haves and Have-Nots

Since the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which barred federally funded Medicaid from paying for abortions, the whittling-away of reproductive rights has almost always affected poor women much more than better-off women. We have in this country a right to abortion that’s relatively easy to access if 1) you can pay for it, and 2) you live outside the large mostly rural swaths of fly-over country where abortion clinics are vanishingly rare. The geographic gaps ( here's a map ) come back to affordability, too. If you have the money to travel hundreds of miles and stay overnight, then you can exercise your right to have an abortion mo matter where you live. If not, then not.

And now in this same dreary tradition we have the Stupak amendment in the House health care bill, which, as Meredith explained , will prevent health insurers from offering abortion coverage if they participate in the new exchange that’s supposed to insure people who don’t have employer-based coverage. Stupak extends the ban on public funding for abortion from poor women on Medicaid to those who are self-employed or work for small businesses or who otherwise aren't covered and make up to $88,000 a year for a family of four, according to the New York Times . Luckier, more affluent women with employer-based care won’t be directly affected. This is the price we paid for the bill to squeak through the House: More division of women between haves and have-nots. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg foreshaded such an outcome when I interviewed her last summer:

Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.


Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.



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