California is often celebrated as a leader in reproductive rights and access to abortion. But despite our state’s proactive policies, low-income people and young people still struggle to get the care they need.
I know because I was one of them. At 20 years old, I was living on my own for the first time and struggling to make ends meet when I found out I was pregnant. I was relying on my financial aid and a mere $120 every two weeks—I was in no position to become a parent. I struggled to schedule an appointment for abortion that I knew I wanted, which ultimately delayed my care and made my procedure more expensive with each passing day. California law requires public and private health insurance plans to cover abortion care, but I still had to pay close to $500 out of pocket. Despite my frustration and delayed care, I will never regret my abortion.
Every year for the last 43 years, anti-abortion lawmakers have renewed the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy that strips low-income people enrolled in Medicaid and other public health insurance programs of access to much-needed abortion services.
That’s why I’m dedicated to ensuring that all people—whatever their income or however old they are—can get the care they need, and that includes lifting bans on insurance coverage for abortion.
Every year for the last 43 years, anti-abortion lawmakers have renewed the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy that strips low-income people enrolled in Medicaid and other public health insurance programs of access to much-needed abortion services. The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade granted the right to an abortion. But by renewing the Hyde Amendment every year, Congress has denied that right to millions of low-income people -- who are more likely to be women of color.
In fact, a woman who seeks an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who is able to get an abortion. Restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortion force one in four low-income womento carry their unwanted pregnancies. Some who live paycheck to paycheck are forced to delay their abortions while they rush to collect the funds to pay for it, or end up selling their precious personal items or forgoing basic needs. Young people in particular, as I experienced, often lack the resources to pay out of pocket for their health care, including abortion.
Repealing the Hyde Amendment has become a matter of greater urgency this year, as anti-choice state legislators across the country pass dangerous abortion bans. In 2019 alone, nine states -- an unprecedented number -- have passed laws limiting or banning abortion. Most are in the south, where barriers to access are already high and where clinics are few and far between. In Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana, for example, anti-choice lawmakers passed laws banning abortion after six weeks, with few exceptions. In Alabama, lawmakers passed a measure that bans the procedure outright.
It’s time for Congress to do the same and end abortion coverage bans once and for all.
Politicians should not have the ability to push people like me further into the margins. The ability to plan my future on my own terms and have my abortion gave me the opportunity to get my degree, and now I have an incredible job and a comfortable, healthy life. Each of us should be able to determine our own futures without discriminatory policies like the Hyde Amendment denying affordable, accessible abortion care.
Jessy Rosales is a campus coordinator with the justCARE campaign at the Women's Foundation of California, and an abortion storyteller through the National Network of Abortion Fund's WeTestify program. She is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in Media and Cultural Studies.