What You Need to Know About the Next Turning Point in Abortion Law

By Paulette Schuster (Harvard College Undergraduate)

Tomorrow, some time after 12PM, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill that, if passed, will change the course of abortion in the United States. Here is what you need to know about the law, H.R. 7, and what you can do. 

What is this law about?

This law will do two things. First, it will ban federal funding of health insurance plans that cover abortions except in cases of incest, rape, and life-threatening birth complications. Second, the Hyde Amendment will become law. This means that instead of having to be continually renewed, the Hyde Amendment will be permanent.

What is the Hyde Amendment, anyway? In short, it prevents Medicaid from covering abortions. It’s a “rider”, meaning that it gets attached to a different, usually completely unrelated bill, for it would not pass on its own.  It originally passed in 1976 and the only exception was if the pregnancy endangered the mother’s life. Only in 1993 was the exception expanded to include incest and rape.

How will this affect me?

If you don’t have a uterus: congrats! This law won’t affect you directly. You are privileged. However, if anyone you care about has a uterus, there could be some serious consequences for them. Since you don’t have a uterus, you could be passive, but you’re better than that. So LISTEN and SUPPORT those who will be affected, understand that their opinion takes precedence, no matter how strongly you feel about abortion.

If you do: This law could prevent you from getting an abortion by putting the procedure at prohibitive costs.

If you’re on Medicaid, little or no access to abortions might already be a reality for you. I am sorry that our country put you in this position. We see you. We saw you before this bill and will continue to support you and fight for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. What’s at stake is how we fight. A permanent law means repealing is the only option. We can no longer pressure representatives to stop allowing the Hyde Amendment to survive off of unrelated budgeting bills and let is drift into the abyss of oppressive former laws.

What if I’m not pro-choice or am still figuring out my beliefs on abortion?

Even as I write this, I am still figuring out my own views on abortion. You might wonder why someone who hasn’t solidified their beliefs is writing such a seemingly pro-choice piece. I don’t see this particular law centered in the politics of abortion. H. R. 7 is about classism and individuality. This law does not outlaw abortion or give an ultimatum on the pro-choice and pro-life debate. A lower or middle-class person and upper-class person might have the same reason for wanting an abortion. This law will be an inconvenience to an upper-class person and a barrier for a middle or lower-class person. Unofficially banning abortion for everyone except the rich is inconsistent and classist. If you are pro-life, there is no justice here, especially when you note that, like it or not, many of these abortions will happen anyways just under the radar. Now more lives are at risk.

As I navigate my opinion on abortion I must recognize certain things. Although I have a uterus, I have never been in a position where I have needed an abortion. This brings us to individuality. I cannot make a universal rule for something I have never experienced (cough, men in Congress I’m talking to you). Everyone, whether directly affected by H. R. 7 or not, is entitled to an opinion. However, recognize that your opinions around abortion are YOUR opinions; therefore they should pertain to YOU, not someone else who could very well be in a different situation. Support individual liberties; Republicans does this sound familiar?

What can I do?

Reach out to your representative. Be the forceful and passionate person that you are and tell them to vote no to H.R. 7. Then tell them why. Politics can be demoralizing. But if you’re able to gather the strength to reach out to your representatives, it will make more of difference than if you do not. Want to go a step further? Tell your family, friends, coworkers, your local bodega owner, and anyone else you can (safely) reach out to and tell them to act as well.

Take Action Now: Progressive Advocacy, Civil Liberties, Women