02 August 2010

Access Denied: Women in Blue States Struggle to Obtain Abortion Services

Think that just because you live in a state that puts progressives in office you've got relatively unfettered access to abortion and other reproductive health services? Time to think again.

To prove just how restrictive some so-called "Blue states" continue to be when it comes to our reproductive rights, RH Reality Check and the ACLU have teamed up for a "Reproductive Justice Roadtrip" across the state of Illinois, documenting the barriers and challenges women face when trying to access reproductive health services in the Prairie State.

Today's first-person entry into this debate comes from Amy S., a resident of the Chicago suburbs who learned at 25 weeks gestation that her fetus had a "catastrophic brain malformation" -- one that would result, if the fetus was carried to term, in a short life filled with excruciating pain. Amy chose to end her pregnancy, but finding a facility that would comply with her wishes within the state of Illinois turned out to be impossible:
What I had to do [to terminate this pregnancy] shocked and astounded me. In a "blue" state, I never imagined that I would be told my OBs could not induce labor at my local hospital... UIC, Rush, U of C, Evanston, Northwestern, Lutheran General, and my local hospital, Delnor, all said no. I was too far along at 25 weeks. At least at Lutheran General, it got before the ethics committee, but they said no because I was not "their" patient. Where did that leave me? Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Tiller who was killed last year.
The fee had to be paid in cash, up front. All told, including travel, it cost us $6000. Blue Cross denied my claim as out of network. I appealed and they denied it again.
Amy and her family had the means to ensure that she could indeed end her pregnancy as she wished. Many, if not most, women would have been denied that opportunity because they simply couldn't have afforded it. The notion that any woman should have to go to such extreme means -- financial, logistical and emotional -- to defend her own right to choose strikes us as simply unacceptable, and offensive, so many years after Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land.

We applaud RH Reality Check and the ACLU for shining a light on the many, complex ways the fight for reproductive justice impacts women's lives -- and we urge you to learn more about the laws in your own state and how the debate is unfurling at the federal level. As we speak, there is legislation winding its way through Congress that would seek to make permanent the provisions of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion services (currently the amendment has to be reaffirmed by a congressional vote every year; this new bill would set the law in stone). Measures like these make accessing reproductive health services more difficult for all women, but they have an undue and disproportionate impact on low-income women and women of color -- who are literally trapped by the economic barriers that stand between them and their right to decide the fate of their own bodies.

We're so glad Amy was able to make the decision that was right for her. Here's to the day when every woman in America has access to the same set of choices.

The Ms. Foundation for Women has been working to support reproductive rights, health, and justice since our inception -- and together with our grantee partners, we are dedicated to ensuring that stories like Amy's are increasingly rare. To see some of our grantees' work in action, check out Family Planning Advocates' website, or visit the National Women's Law Center's "Reproductive Choices" page.

Help support these organizations and programs today! Donate now and a special matching grant will double your support -- dollar-for-dollar -- for reproductive justice organizations led by women of color.

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