Why the LGBTQ Community Should Support EACH Woman Act
As we prepare to observe LGBT History Month in October and celebrate our achievements, we must also recognize that our movement is about much more than same-sex marriage. True equality also means the fundamental right to sexual health and freedom, and the right to decide whether or when to become a parent. That is why the National LGBTQ Task Force is joining All* Above All in support of the EACH Woman Act (H.R. 2972 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act). This important bill would restore public insurance coverage so that anyone who needs it can get affordable, safe abortion care. When it comes to such important life decisions, it is vital that a person is able to consider all the options available to them, regardless of income or insurance.
Why should the LGBTQ community care about the EACH Woman Act? Because the movements for LGBTQ rights and reproductive justice are inseparable: we are all working for the right to live our lives fully and the right to choose how we use our bodies—without government abuse and intrusion. The opposition to comprehensive and affordable reproductive healthcare are often the same forces that want to control what we, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer people, do with our bodies and our access to health care. In the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision, it is more important than ever that we build strong, inclusive coalitions to win progressive change. Reproductive rights is an LGBTQ issue.
The EACH Woman Act creates two important standards for reproductive health. First, it ensures that everyone who receives care or insurance through the federal government, such as through Medicaid or a federal employee health plan, will have coverage for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion. Second, it prevents political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care.
Millions of people—including cisgender lesbians, bisexual women, queer and gender non-conforming women, and transgender men—are denied access to safe, affordable, and life-saving abortions. Since 1976, the federal government has withheld funds for abortion coverage in most circumstances, which impacts people who are insured through Medicaid, as well as those who receive insurance or care through other federal health plans and programs. The LGBTQ community is more vulnerable to being poor and therefore more likely to rely on such programs. In fact, poverty rates on average are higher among lesbian and bisexual women, young people, and African Americans within our community, with more than one-quarter (28%) of lesbian and bisexual women living in poverty. In addition, several states also prohibit abortion coverage in private insurance plans within or beyond health insurance marketplaces under Obamacare.
The impact of these bans is far-reaching, especially for individuals struggling to make ends meet. Studies show that when policymakers put severe restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion services, it forces one in four poor cisgender women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. When people are living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage for an abortion can push them deeper into poverty. In fact, when an individual seeks abortion services but is denied, they are three times more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get an abortion. Lesbian and bisexual women in particular already experience an increased risk for adverse health conditions, especially those with low incomes; denying access to abortion care only exacerbates existing health disparities.
These challenges make it all the more important for the LGBTQ community to support the EACH Woman Act. We must ensure that all people can make the best decisions for themselves and their families, no matter how little money they have or however they are insured. The Task Force is proud to be part of All* Above All. Join us and show that you, too, are “All In” for lifting the ban on abortion coverage.
by Zsea Beaumonis, National LGBTQ Task Force Reproductive Justice Fellow