Philadelphia becomes latest in series of cities taking action to advance coverage for the full range of reproductive health care

February 15, 2013
Contact: Tara Sweeney, 917-488-0094, [email protected]

Philadelphia Board of Health Passes Resolution
Supporting Insurance Coverage for Abortion Care

Philadelphia becomes latest in series of cities taking action to advance coverage
for the full range of reproductive health care

Last night, the Philadelphia Board of Health passed a resolution calling on President Obama and Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania to “maintain existing public funding for comprehensive reproductive health care and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion care for every woman who needs it, regardless of the source of her insurance.” Current federal policy, known as the Hyde Amendment, withholds insurance coverage for this medical care from women who qualify for government-sponsored insurance programs. Seventeen states do provide such coverage using their own dollars, but Pennsylvania is not among them.

“Leaders at the local level know firsthand how a longstanding federal policy like the Hyde Amendment leads to fundamental inequities and harms women and families,” said Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “City officials are more willing to stand up for this coverage because they understand the direct impact upon members of our communities. That’s what the Philadelphia Board of Health did, and we’re seeing the same proactive approach working in cities across the country.”

Current federal policy withholds abortion coverage from women who qualify for federal insurance programs such as Medicaid, women in the military, and federal employees, among others. Copy-cat laws in 33 states similarly deny abortion coverage for low-income women, while 21 states have moved to also withhold coverage for women with private insurance. In Philadelphia alone, more than 79,800 women of reproductive age currently utilize public insurance, and because Pennsylvania does not provide state Medicaid coverage for abortion care, those women are left with insurance that doesn’t provide coverage for the care they need.

“I see women every day who need abortion access but are struggling to make ends meet, working hard to support themselves and their families,” said Susan Schewel, Board of Health member and Executive Director of the Women’s Medical Fund of Philadelphia. “For them, the cost of an abortion feels like a fortune, yet they often have no alternative but to move heaven and earth to pay for it out of pocket. The Board of Health decided we needed to take a stand. The health and wellbeing of Philadelphia women depend on it.”

Philadelphia is not alone in publicly opposing policies that withhold coverage for needed reproductive health care. The National Institute’s Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health, which is working with municipal policymakers and public health officials across the country, has partnered with advocates in several major U.S. cities to begin to demonstrate a critical mass of support for this coverage.

“There is a concerted effort among local elected officials, public health leaders and advocates, all working in tandem to repeal laws that currently withhold from low-income women coverage for needed reproductive health care services, including abortion care,” Miller said.

On January 22, 2013, advocates in Austin, Texas advocates worked with the Travis County Commissioners Court to adopt a resolution commemorating the Roe v. Wade decision that speaks to the challenges facing women in Travis County and Texas as a whole. The Court adopted a resolution that “affirms the importance of the full spectrum women’s reproductive rights” and “urges Congress and the State of Texas to pursue a positive agenda that reaffirms the fundamental right of women to make decisions about their health in concert with their doctor and improves women’s access to safe and comprehensive reproductive health care.”

On January 23, 2013, the New York City Council adopted Resolution 1635-A commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and calling on the United States Congress to support funding for comprehensive reproductive health care. This resolution recognizes that “budgetary actions taken by the federal government have increased barriers to accessing such services by restricting abortion coverage for those enrolled in public insurance programs.”

Miller concluded, “More cities in coming months will roll out similar resolutions and proactive approaches to protect insurance coverage for abortion. This is an important new strategy in the growing movement to ensure a woman has access to the full range of reproductive health care options, regardless of what kind of insurance she has. We’re proud to be a part of it.”