Like many Americans, I was glued to my television last night, anxious and uncertain about the future of the US. I sat there and could only think about moving forward. It was too hard to think about the opposite outcome, and to worry about how we would be able to protect and expand our rights if we did not re-elect President Obama.
Luckily, some of that positive thinking paid off.
It’s no secret that abortion and reproductive health and rights played heavily into the election. [Last night] I sat waiting to see if the elected leader of our country would be someone who supported my right to reproductive autonomy or someone who would make it difficult or impossible for me to access health care services. We have spoken: we have had enough attacks, and we want to move forward with politicians who respect and support our rights.
I am ecstatic that President Obama will lead our country for four more years. During the election he spoke clearly about his position on reproductive health, calling it an economic issuethat affects women and families. I couldn’t agree more, and neither could voters, like those in Florida who rejected a measure that would have severely limited abortion coverage and access. While there is much work to be done, I can breathe a bit easier knowing that the leader of our country believes in health care and reproductive rights.
We’ve heard throughout the course of campaign season from both the public and the president that reproductive health and rights are critical for people to lead healthy and safe lives, but there’s one piece of the puzzle that no one is talking about: the Hyde Amendment and ensuring abortion coverage for low-income people in the US. Hyde prohibits federal Medicaid coverage of abortion, and politicians have looked the other way for 36 years while people have struggled to come up with the money for care, putting off paying bills, rent, or even going hungry to afford an abortion.
While I appreciate the President’s position, especially at a time when reproductive health and abortion services are being severely limited at state and local levels, I also know that if people can’t afford care, then they don’t have a choice. Hyde has devastated communities and families for three decades. We must compel the President, who believes in reproductive rights and justice, to make change.
Now is the time to reopen the conversation about Hyde and abortion access: the public and the administration have been clear in their support of reproductive rights and affordable access to health care. We have a long way to go and a hard history to overcome, but we cannot back down. We must ensure that all services, including abortion, are affordable in order to secure people’s reproductive rights and ability to make decisions.
If President Obama believes that the lives and health of low-income people matter and that everyone deserves access to reproductive health services, he must take a stand this January and strike restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion when he presents his budget to Congress. And we, as advocates and reproductive justice activists, need to remain vocal for the next four years and hold our elected officials and administration accountable to living up to their promises of supporting all people’s rights, not just those who can afford it.