Taking Bold Action to Lift Abortion Coverage Bans: States and Cities Lead the Way

By Amy Allina, Deputy Director, National Women's Health Network

Amy Allina, Deputy Director, National Women's Health NetworkNestled in the Appalachian mountains, Charleston, West Virginia wouldn’t at first glance seem to have much in common with Cerritos College, a predominantly Latino community college with its campus in Los Angeles. But thanks to the All* Above All campaign, both are places where people are mobilizing in support of their shared belief that every woman, however much she makes or wherever she lives, should be able to get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.

The National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) was founded in 1976, and the very first call to action that we issued to our members was to oppose the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal insurance coverage of abortion. Unfortunately, we were not able to stop Hyde then, and since 1976 Congress has withheld federal funds for abortion coverage in most circumstances for women insured through the Medicaid program. The vast majority of states have followed that lead, leaving low-income women throughout most of the United States without coverage for abortion care.

But 37 years later we haven’t given up. The NWHN is proud to be a partner in the All* Above All campaign, adding our voice to a growing chorus of people and organizations across the country calling on lawmakers to stop denying women the ability to make personal decisions about their health. The campaign is revealing the strong – and largely untapped – support for lifting the bans that Congress and many states have imposed on abortion coverage. Campaign activities are locally tailored and locally led, so they’re different in different places, but All* Above All’s bold mission comes through in every place: from the West Coast to the East Coast and in a growing number of states and cities in between, people are standing up for the belief that the amount of money a woman has or doesn’t have should not prohibit her from having an abortion.

Minnesota. At the Minnesota State Fair this year, more than 1,000 Minnesotans pledged their support for abortion coverage. They spoke to organizers from All* Above All partner Pro-Choice Resources about why abortion access mattered to them and took “selfie” photos to share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

West Virginia RallyWest Virginia. Last spring, West Virginians lined the halls of their state capitol to lobby against two bans on abortion coverage – both were eventually defeated. Then in August and September, All* Above All partner West Virginia FREE convened hundreds of supporters to stand against further attacks on abortion access threatened by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in spirited rallies at the State House and West Virginia University.

Oregon. Anti-choice activists in Oregon have repeatedly tried – and failed – to ban coverage of abortion in the Oregon Health Plan. Organizers at the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health, an All* Above All partner, have been educating Oregonians about these unfair attempts to ban coverage all summer.

Florida. When Florida faced a ballot initiative to ban public funding for abortion care in November 2012, abortion-rights advocates in the state educated and mobilized voters and successfully defeated the ban. All* Above All partners supported the No on 6 campaign by calling more than 25,000 voters. More than 60 percent of the people they spoke with pledged to vote against the ban on abortion coverage on the ballot.

City and County Action. In addition to state-level activities, All* Above All partners are working with mayors, city councils, city boards of health, and other local entities to demonstrate support for public insurance coverage of abortion care. Public officials in Austin, Texas; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City have passed resolutions calling for coverage of abortion care, and resolutions are in development now in several other cities.

Cerritos College is not the only school where students are taking a bold stand for abortion coverage. From Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, all the way to the University of California’s Berkeley campus, thousands of students have signed petitions that call on Congress to lift the ban on abortion coverage.

These are just a few highlights of the powerful state and local work that All* Above All and its partners are doing across the country. As a national organization, the NWHN knows all too well that the bans started at the federal level and spread from there, but we believe the grassroots demand for lifting them and unified efforts by communities around the country will make the vision of affordable abortion care for every woman a reality.

To get involved, check out allaboveall.org and tell Congress to lift the bans on abortion coverage.

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