We’re Pennsylvania nurses: We support the struggle for Medicaid coverage of abortion | Opinion

By PBS NewsHour from Arlington, Va., USA - 082812_Planned Parenthood_006, CC BY 2.0, WikiMedia Commons

We are a group of nurses who believe in every individual’s right to access abortion care. This right should be independent of income. It should not be reserved for the privileged few who can afford to pay.

As nurses, we witness the complex decisions made by our patients every day. We have held the hands of parents struggling to both heal and survive on minimum wage.

We have supported young people who were survivors of incest. We have cried with parents who learned that their baby would be too sick to survive. As healthcare providers, we witness families grapple with complicated personal decisions, and we know that patients who choose to have an abortion do so with careful consideration.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 85 percent of Pennsylvania counties have no clinics that provide abortion, and nearly half of all Pennsylvania women live in these counties.

Within Philadelphia’s city limits there are only a few clinics that can provide the service. After physical access, the next greatest barrier is the cost.

In the state of Pennsylvania, abortion care is not covered by Medicaid except in the case of rape, incest, or life threat, and the office visit must be paid for out of pocket.

In Philadelphia, the cost of an abortion can cost between $425 and thousands of dollars. The price tag on routine reproductive health services can push the possibility of accessing healthcare out of reach for many Philadelphia residents.

The Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal funding for abortion since 1976.

Medicaid is a program that provides medical insurance to low-income families and qualifying pregnant people and children, among a few other eligible groups. When former U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., brought the Hyde Amendment to Congress he said, “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the … Medicaid bill.”

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program covering 72.5 million Americans.

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According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Pennsylvania Medicaid covers 1 in 6 adults. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court is currently considering a lawsuit by the Women’s Law Project asserting the state’s ban on Medicaid funding for abortion is discriminatory.

The lawsuit, Allegheny Reproductive Health Center v. Pa. Dept. of Human Services, argues that Pennsylvania’s ban on Medicaid coverage of abortion violates the Equal Rights Amendment and equal protection provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

As nurses, we could not agree more. Research shows one in four people seeking abortion care who cannot overcome the lack of Medicaid coverage will be forced into carrying their pregnancy to term and giving birth against their will.

We support equality and healthcare for all, and we support equality in the right to choose. We are nurses, and we support the struggle for Medicaid coverage of abortion.

This op-Ed is jointly signed by Maren Abromowitz, RN, Erin V.W. Andrew, MPhil, BSN, RN, Rachel Betesh, BSN, RN, Audrey Burlando, MSN, CRNP, WHNP-BC, Dorothy Cam, MSN, WHNP-BC, Katherine Chau, BSN, RN, Mo Deken, BSN, RN, Elisa Dolowich, BSN, RN, Harley Ellington, BSN, RN,  Laura Fish, BSN, RN, Lisa Heinlein, BSN, RN, Katrina Lipinsky, BSN, RN, Ryann McChesney, BSN, RN,  Kelly Nichols, MSN, CRNP, WHNP-BC,  Molly O’Rourke, BSN, RN,  Kara Pravdo, MSN, CRNP, WHNP-BC, Rebecca Prosser MSN, CRNP, CNM,  Diane Rubin, BSN, RN,  Crystal Scattareggia, MSN, CRNP, Courtney Weintraub, BSN, RN,  Molly Weisberg, BSN, RN, Lauren Welch, BSN, RN, and Kara McQuillan, RN, CNM.

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