Abortion Access: It’s About the Money
Once upon a time, there was a law called Roe v. Wade. It was a law generally well-liked by most of the women in the land, as it allowed them to control their pregnancies and spend their time doing other things. But unfortunately, about three years after this long-awaited law was implemented, another one came around to impede on the women’s rights. The Hyde Amendment was created to ban Medicaid funding for abortions that were not required to save a woman’s life, and later if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. Everyone but the Queen got pretty pissed, since no one else could easily afford the price of an out of pocket abortion. And they all lived frustratedly-ever after. The End.
Has anyone else noticed that within the current debate on abortion, it seems that our biggest concern is defending our rights to abortion free of waiting periods, ultrasounds and mandatory interviews. The assumption is that this is the best way to increase access, yet according to this 2005 article by the National Network of Abortion Funds, money is actually a bigger obstacle for most women. Low-income women are more likely to have limited access to contraception, therefore more at-risk for unplanned pregnancies, and tend to need abortions more. However, they are also less likely to have insurance coverage that will pay for the procedure, relying instead on Medicaid, which only covers abortion in cases of rape/incest or threat to the woman’s life.
However, even women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or whose lives are at risk rarely receive the coverage they need. This NNAF article reports that within the 33 states that do not fund the procedure themselves, “Medicaid pays for less than 1% of abortions.” Imagine, a girl has just been raped, and in the process of dealing with such a trauma, she has to fill out form after form explaining why she should receive coverage to terminate a pregnancy that was forced upon her. Often the process takes so long that the money does not arrive in time for the woman to have an abortion. And we wonder why late-term abortions happen? It’s not because women are lazy, or irresponsible. It’s because they are working to find the money to pay for the procedure.
As it is, about 74% of women who receive the procedure pay out of their own pockets, an average price of $468 (for a first-trimester abortion). If they can’t round up the money in time, the price raises to $774 at 16 weeks, and $1,179 at 20 weeks. And if they just can’t get a hold of the money at all? The article quotes that “as many as one in three poor women who would have an abortion if the procedure were covered by Medicaid are forced to continue the pregnancy.”
Certainly, waiting periods, ultrasounds and mandatory interviews are also big obstacles to access. So is the lack of functioning clinics. If you can’t afford to pay for your abortion, the likelihood that you will be able to pay for the gas or transportation to the nearest (and probably not so near) clinic, a hotel while you undergo the mandatory waiting period, and child care for the children you most likely have at home (since the majority of women seeking abortions already have children) is low.
In other words, we need to make insurance coverage of abortion an equal priority. Access isn’t just laws, it’s about money, which is directly tied to class and race.
For more information or ways to help, check out the National Network of Abortion Funds at fundabortionow.org.