LGBTQ and Reproductive Rights Advocate Kierra Johnson Testifies Before House Subcommittee
By Candace Bond-Theriault, Policy Counsel, Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice
As a member of All* Above All coalition, the National LGBTQ Task Force participated in this week’s United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action and advocates are raising awareness about the Hyde Amendment and the negative impact the 40 year old policy has on low-income women seeking abortions. Having abortions is a constitutionally protected right and access should never be limited on the basis of a person’s financial status. The National LGBTQ Task Force is proud that our former board member, Kierra Johnson, who is executive director of URGE, delivered a powerful testimony on this issue before the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Check out what she had to say by watching the video clip here or reading her remarks below.
Hearing on “The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act”
September 23, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to speak about the Hyde Amendment, one of our nation’s most harmful and shameful policies. One that singles out low-income women and interferes with their personal decision about whether to end a pregnancy.
My name is Kierra Johnson and I’m the Executive Director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity and as a steering committee member of the All* Above All campaign, a campaign led by more than 115 reproductive health, rights and justice organizations united to lift the bans on abortion coverage.
Safe, quality abortion services should be available regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, her source of insurance, or where she lives. However, since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, the appropriations process has been used as a vehicle to systematically deny meaningful abortion access to poor women, and has been expanded to harm many others. As a result of the Hyde Amendment and its extended reach into similar restrictions, nearly 29 million women of reproductive age do not have insurance coverage for abortion.
Each restriction, each ban is intended by anti-abortion politicians to further their ultimate goal of pushing abortion out of reach for as many people as possible.
For those who are struggling to get by– disproportionately women of color, low-income women, young women, immigrant women – a coverage ban might as well be a ban on abortion all together. Studies have shown that restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four low-income women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The Hyde amendment creates one the most onerous barriers to abortion care.
Just listen to the voices of those who have felt the impact of these bans. Kendall from Colorado says, “I found out I was pregnant and was deceived by the center I visited because it ended up being an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center. After that I struggled for weeks to find resources and to come up with the last $200. I have been anxious, frantic, and terrified. My health has declined and I believed there was little to no hope until today when I was finally able to access an abortion.”
A second woman recounted: “Here is what it took to gather the money for my abortion. It was hard, it took me three weeks…. The payday loan [I took out for my abortion] wiped out my entire account…. I got a three-day notice on my apartment door, and things started to spiral out of control and then when I became evicted I lived in a shelter temporarily.”
As a Black woman, I am outraged that the morally bankrupt Hyde Amendment has been permitted to persist for so long. It is a source of pain for many women, and should be a source of shame for those who support it.
The time for policies that visit indignity and deprivation on women, including Black women, is over. Last year, Representatives Barbara Lee, Diana DeGette and Jan Schakowsky made history by introducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, known as the EACH Woman Act. This bold legislation respects that each of us, not just some of us, should be able to make our own decisions about pregnancy and prohibits politicians from interfering by withholding coverage for abortion care. With this bill we are saying that all of us should have access to the same coverage and options, independent of income, zip code or source of insurance.
This legislation now has more than 120 cosponsors in the House and the support of the American people. Polling released last July shows that a majority of Americans would support a bill requiring Medicaid to cover abortion.
A right without access is not a right at all. In the EACH Woman Act, I see the transformational power of centering the lives, struggles, and aspirations of those for whom the legal right to a safe abortion has not yet been made a reality.
But that reality is within our reach. We can work together to build a future where women’s decisions are treated with respect and we can get the healthcare we need with dignity and compassion.
Executive Director, URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
Steering Committee Member, All* Above All