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Twelve Things You Can Do To Help Increase Abortion Access

Written by Frances Kissling for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The end of the year is a special time. Some of us make a slew of year-end contributions; others make New Year’s resolutions. We think back and we think forward. My thoughts as the year ends turn to the greatest challenge facing abortion-rights supporters: the absence of adequate federal, state and personal financial support for women who have chosen to have abortions and simply don’t have the money. I am struck by the almost absolute apathy of most of the movement when it comes to this pressing concern.

When we look back, we are critical of the movement of the mid-seventies which chose to focus its attention on rallying the troops about a less-than-real challenge to Roe’s constitutionality rather than on the first and most significant blow to Roe: the 1980 Harris v. McRae Supreme Court decision which ruled that neither the states nor the federal government were obliged to pay for abortions through various funding mechanisms.

Efforts to overturn the Hyde Amendment as well as state laws prohibiting the use of state money for abortions have consistently taken a back seat to efforts designed to secure adolescent access to abortion services and fight waiting periods, phony informed consent laws and restrictions on later term abortions and on specific types of medical procedures.

Restoration of funding for low-income and poor women has never been the centerpiece of the choice agenda and it is still not at the top of the movement’s public wish list. While the movement rallied around funding issues during this year’s battle over health care reform and the draconian restrictions on the use of a single penny of government or government-approved insurance plans being spent on abortion, passions have abated.

Research and policy groups with the notable exception of Ibis Reproductive Health and the Guttmacher Institute seem to have no programs related to public funding; prochoice legislative leaders at the state and federal level discourage advocates who raise the issue firmly refusing to introduce any measures to restore funding. And our President, having made clear during the health care debate that we have a “tradition” of not using government funds for abortion is silent.

In fact one can rarely read an article or speech by any leader in the movement or go to the websites of choice organizations and see the Hyde Amendment mentioned. Check it out yourself. I just did and was very disappointed.

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