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Rep. Ayanna Pressley seeks to protect abortion access with EACH Act

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley speaking on the COM lawn
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley speaking on the COM lawn on Oct. 18, 2022. U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley assisted in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Healthcare Act on Jan. 26, 2023. The EACH Act would make abortion more accessible by lifting restrictions on public health insurance coverage. ZIYU (JULIAN) ZHU/DFP STAFF

By Matthew Eadie and Macie Parker

U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley — who represents Massachusetts’ 7th congressional district — helped reintroduce the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Healthcare (EACH) Act on Jan. 26 at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

Pressley’s website describes the EACH Act as “bold legislation to guarantee abortion coverage — regardless of how a patient gets their health insurance.”

“The EACH Act is necessary legislation that, again, is responsive to the needs of the people and the will of the people, that meets the moment by repealing the racist and discriminatory Hyde Amendment,” Pressley said at the press conference.

Pressley joined Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois,  Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, Rep. Barbara Lee of California and many more House Democrats— all of whom are some of the 167 co-sponsors of the bill.

The Hyde Amendment, named after its original sponsor Rep. Henry Hyde, does not allow federal funding for abortions, unless the pregnancy is caused by rape, incest or is known to cause death if an abortion is not performed, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In 1977, the Amendment was passed by Congress as a legislative provision intended to prevent the use of federal funds for abortion services, has been re-enacted nearly every year since with different provisions each time and has been upheld by the Supreme Court on numerous occasions. 

Rep. Pressley described the Hyde Amendment as “discriminatory.” Pressley’s website says the new bill will end abortion restrictions on those who depend on government-sponsored health insurance plans like Medicaid, unlike the Hyde Amendment

The EACH Act seeks to protect a person’s access to abortion services without regard to race, sex or income level.

“Representative Hyde sought to strip the right from low-income women, by borrowing federal funding for abortions,” Lee said in the press conference.

Lee said she wants to see the Hyde Amendment completely dismantled.

“Now, in the 40 years that the Hyde Amendment has persisted, my moral outrage, all of our moral outrages, is at its blatant discrimination against low-income women, poor women (and) primarily Black and brown women,” she said.

Pressley said the Hyde Amendment disproportionately impacts Black, brown, indigenous and disabled people.

“The Hyde Amendment is racist and discriminatory, period, full stop,” Pressley said.

In 2017, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, but no action was taken in the Senate and did not become law. 

Despite this, the most recent provision, passed in 2022, “prohibits covered funds to be expended for any abortion or to provide health benefits coverage that includes abortion,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

Morgan Hopkins, president of All* Above All — a nonprofit action fund seeking to fight for abortion justice — was also present at the press conference on Thursday and said the Hyde Amendment “targets people working to make ends meet, taking away their fundamental freedom to make their decisions about abortion.”

Margaret Batten, member of the board of the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, said she thinks abortion is not a political matter.

“Why should politicians tell you what you can and cannot access in terms of your health care?” she said. “That’s a decision for you to make in conjunction with your doctor. Politicians should have nothing to do with it.”

Organizations like the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund help cover the cost of abortions for those who can’t afford them.

“Those who are least able to manage, carry the heaviest burdens when it comes to accessing abortion care,” Batten said. “So the abortion funds try to help level the playing field a little bit.”

In May 2022, 48 Republican U.S. Senators signed a letter addressed to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer, vowing their opposition to any bill targeted at dismantling the Hyde Amendment.

 “We are united in our resolve to preserve more than 45 years of consensus against taxpayer funding for abortion,” the letter said. 

Batten said now would be a good time to abolish the Hyde Amendment with the absence of Roe v. Wade.

“Once that right to choose is gone, however, then (opposing politicians) are made to face their own words and reckon with the extreme, dangerous, unfair positions they have taken,” Batten said.

Batten said it is important to destigmatize abortion by talking to friends, family and colleagues about it.

“If you have had an abortion, there is no shame in that,” Pressley said at the press conference. “If you are in need of or seeking an abortion, there is no shame in that. The only shame is in those who work actively to deny you access to health care, that which is a fundamental human right.”

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