American Abortion Access Could Look Like Ireland's


Abortion laws in the United States are not equal across all jurisdictions, and while that may not be a surprise to you, it's looking like the House Republicans want to make it a whole lot worse. On Tuesday they passed HR-7, a bill that would permanently make federally funded abortions illegal, as well as limit abortion coverage under multi-state private insurance plans in the Obamacare exchanges. That means geography and social class are about to play an even bigger role in the matter, which could result in abortion access after HR-7 resembling Ireland — definitely not a model the United States should follow.

First off, here's how it works in Ireland: abortion is illegal. Full stop. There are no exceptions for rape or to protect the woman's health — unless her life is at risk, that's the only exception (and it's new — as of 2013 when a woman died because she was denied one). So in Ireland there are no ways to have a safe, legal abortion. Yet there's a big "but" coming: middle class and rich women, have another alternative. They take a flight over to the U.K. where the procedure is legal. They pay out of their own pocket, anywhere from around 465€ to 1625€. That's on top of the flight, hotel, and other travel costs. About 10 women do this every day.

Now back to the United States. An appropriations rider called the Hyde Amendment, which is passed every year, prohibits federal payment for abortions. That means Medicaid can't cover it with federal funds — only the states can pay for it, but most don't. This would become permanent if HR7 became law. So unless you're lucky enough to live in one of the 17 states that pick up the bill, as a low-income woman, you'll have to pay out of pocket. But if you're a middle- or upper-class woman, you have private insurance that you buy on your own or get through an employer, and it covers abortion, you pay very little — about $18, according to one study.

So that's one way that we're looking more like Ireland. In almost all states abortion access is easier for the wealthy — and cheaper too, a huge irony. In some 33 states plus the District of Columbia — save some very specific exemptions — Medicaid will not pay for your abortion. Your only option? Paying for it yourself, just like the Irish women traveling to the UK do. The average price for an abortion is $575. That's expensive for anyone, and even more so when it's a third or two-thirds of your monthly income like it is for some low-income women.

And the scariest part is that this is just the beginning of the GOP attack on abortion rights. If Trump is able to appoint enough anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, we could risk seeing Roe v. Wade overturned. As Trump put it in the third presidential debate, the issue will then go back to the states. That would make abortion access here even more like Ireland because geography would play a huge role in addition to social class.

If it were illegal in your state — and if Roe v. Wade were overturned, there would be about 37 million women in 33 states in which it would be illegal — you would need to travel to another state to have the procedure done. Your insurance would likely not cover it, as 25 states already have laws that limit some insurance plans from including abortion, and more would likely pass. Plus the Medicaid ban for those who can't afford to buy private insurance would still be on the books.

How unfair. That would mean you'd have the upper and middle class who can afford to make the trip and pay cash for the procedure continuing to have access — albeit difficult and traumatic — while the poor could not afford to go and would risk dangerous unregulated procedures or worse. Just like in Ireland.

This is the wrong direction for America to take and the GOP attack on abortion rights must be stopped before it's too late. Call your senators today.