Chair DeLauro Statement at Hearing on Impacts on Women Denied an Abortion Because of an Inability to Pay

2020-12-08 09:23

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the impacts on women who are denied an abortion because of an inability to pay​:

The subcommittee will come to order.

Good morning. Welcome to our witnesses. Today, we are going to examine the impact on women seeking an abortion but are denied because of an inability to pay. Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land, yet, for too long some women in this country have been denied their right to an abortion.

The Hyde amendment is a discriminatory policy. For more than 40 years, it has been routinely extended — every year as a legislative rider — but the time has come in this current moment to reckon with the norm, with the status quo, and view it through the lens of how it impacts communities of color.

Connecticut’s Medicaid program has covered abortion services using state funding since 1986 based on a Connecticut Superior Court decision. To date that decision has never been appealed. Eight other states provide funding for abortion pursuant to a court order, while seven fund abortions voluntarily all using state dollars. However, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia deny state funding to women seeking access to abortion. As a result, the millions of economically insecure women in these states are hostage to their geography.

For the women in these states covered by Medicaid, the Hyde amendment has a tremendous impact on their economic, mental, and physical well-being. We know that without insurance coverage of abortion, a legal healthcare procedure, they face costs of more than $500 on average but can exceed $1,000 dollars depending on where they live and the type of abortion. This does not include out-of-pocket expenses like childcare, time off from work, and travel. These costs are prohibitive for too many women.

One study found even in a state like California that uses its own funds to provide coverage, because these providers are typically concentrated in urban areas, rural patients have had to travel more than 50 miles to obtain an abortion. A study published in the January 2020 edition of the American Journal of Public Health found that more than seventy-five percent of requests to an online telemedicine abortion service hailed from states with hostile restrictions, including the Hyde amendment, with cost being the most common barrier.

The landmark Turnaway Study, led by Dr. Diana Greene-Foster, a demographer of the University of California-San Francisco who evaluates the effectiveness of family planning policies and the effect of unintended pregnancy on women’s lives, found that women’s health and wellbeing suffer serious consequences after being denied a wanted abortion.  This was the largest study to examine women’s experiences with abortion and unwanted pregnancy in the United States with the goal to understand the mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic consequences of receiving an abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.

It found the following. For women denied an abortion despite wanting one because it was the right decision for themselves and their families, women being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are four times more likely to live below the Federal Poverty Level.  Women are more likely to experience serious complications at the end of their unwanted pregnancy including eclampsia and death – contributing to the maternal mortality rate in this country that should be embarrassing and unacceptable to everyone participating today. These women denied an abortion are more likely to stay with an abusive partner. These women who were denied a safe and legal medical procedure are more likely to suffer anxiety, loss of self-esteem, and less likely to have aspirational plans for their futures after being denied an abortion. Finally, the Turnaway Study found that being denied has serious implications for the existing children in the family.

And who is being harmed the most by the Hyde amendment and being forced to continue unwanted pregnancies? More than half (58%) of the women affected by the Hyde Amendment are women of color — almost one-third (31%) are Black, 27 percent Latina, nearly one-fifth (19 percent) Asian Americans and Pacific Islander women, as well as indigenous women also covered by Medicaid.

While the Labor, HHS, Education bill has carried the Hyde amendment every year since 1976, this is the last year. The inequities in our country’s health care system that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic — all further expose the impact of the Hyde Amendment. All of these issues deny the humanity of people of color and their ability to do well for their families and communities.  Now is the time to empower all women to be able to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians inserting themselves into the doctor’s office. To ensure that regardless of geography all women are treated fairly and equally. And to improve women’s health.

Thank you all for being here and for lending your expertise. Before I turn to our witnesses, however, let me turn to my friend, Ranking Member Cole, for any remarks he would like to make.

116th Congress