Last year, my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. We’re both in our mid-30s, meaning that the disconcerting phrase “advanced maternal age” was bandied about in many of my prenatal visits. But we’ve noticed that a lot of our friends are waiting to start a family. People in our generation may put off having kids until they have completed graduate school, established themselves in a career, or simply until they feel grown-up enough themselves to be parents.
For our part, my husband and I met in our 30s and wanted to enjoy each other’s company as a couple for a few years before bringing kids into the mix. We feel lucky to have had the ability to wait until we felt our resources and support network would allow us to navigate this big change — life’s biggest — as smoothly as possible. They say there’s never a “right time” to have a child, but I disagree. For us, this was it, and we’re enjoying every minute of it.
I’m keenly aware, however, that not everyone has the option of waiting for the right time to become a parent. Roe v. Wade — decided by the Supreme Court 43 years ago this month — enshrined in law a woman’s right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, but the current reality is that access to family planning varies greatly depending on one’s location and income.
Hyde Amendment limits access
Just a few years after the revolutionary Roe v. Wade decision, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which withholds abortion coverage from women qualified and enrolled in Medicaid except in narrow cases. Federal employees, military service members, and Native Americans are just a few of the other groups that are also denied coverage. Studies show that severe restrictions on this procedure force one in four women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
So while Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, the Hyde Amendment and other abortion coverage and funding restrictions effectively constitute a ban on abortion for those already struggling to get health care, disproportionately affecting people who are young or low-income, people of color, immigrants and those who live in rural communities.
Fortunately, a measure was introduced in the House of Representatives last year that would redress this issue and reclaim the promise of Roe for those who are often the most marginalized in our communities. The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2015 would ensure coverage for abortion for all women, no matter their income or how they are insured. The bill has 110 cosponsors, and Minnesotans can be proud that Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are among them.
Thank you, McCollum and Ellison
I am an active member of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), an organization that strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children and families, and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. In this capacity, along with my fellow NCJW advocates in the state of Minnesota, I want to thank McCollum and Ellison for supporting this groundbreaking action to restore Roe. Even when a child is planned for and eagerly awaited, I think most parents will agree that the physical, emotional and financial demands of pregnancy and parenthood are no joke.
However we may personally feel about abortion, becoming a parent is an individual decision, one that we can’t make on someone else’s behalf. But the Hyde Amendment and similar legislation take away the ability of many women to make that choice. The right to decide if and when to take on the responsibilities of being a parent is a fundamental freedom, and I want my child to grow up in a country where this freedom is granted to all women — not just to those who can afford it.
Hannah Baxter volunteers on reproductive justice issues with National Council of Jewish Women, Minneapolis chapter. She and her family live in the Twin Cities.
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at email@example.com.)