In the fight for reproductive rights, don’t forget Medicaid expansion

Like probably many readers of this newsletter, I’ve been following the developments around Texas’s new abortion law with a deep pit in my stomach. A lawmaker in Florida already introduced a copy-cat bill, and other GOP-led states have expressed interest in following suit. For those who haven’t been following, SB8 is Texas’s new 6-week abortion ban that also allows private citizens to sue to enforce the ban, incentivizing them even with $10,000 bounties.

Perhaps also like many of you, I’ve been having trouble keeping straight all the various headlines that were coming out about abortion developments in other states and on the federal level. The Biden administration had lifted an FDA restriction on medication abortion, easing access during the pandemic! New digital startups were mailing abortion pills nationwide! The U.S House of Representatives passed a bill to protect abortion providers and ban medically unnecessary restrictions like mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds!

So I started reporting this story trying to understand what these more positive seeming developments meant for people living in states that are very hostile to abortion. This piece for The Intercept is my attempt to organize that research for you, as well as lift up something that is often missing from this conversation. Many states with some of the harshest abortion restrictions are also the ones that have not yet expanded Medicaid, leaving some 800,000 women of reproductive age in the so-called “Medicaid gap.”

Affordable access to birth control is not a replacement for affordable access to abortion. I live in Washington D.C. and have both. But it is a fact that many people who have unintended pregnancies lack access to the effective contraception they want, and would use if they had insurance that covered it.

There’s a real chance to expand to expand Medicaid for those living in the 12 holdout states in the reconciliation package Congress is currently negotiating. I looked at some of the top proposals to do so, and tried to clarify where some of the debate exists on that front. But to be clear, even if Congress does expand Medicaid, equitable access to reproductive healthcare won’t exist until the Hyde Amendment—which prohibits federal Medicaid funding from covering most abortions—is overturned. And for now, Joe Manchin has said any package has to maintain Hyde.

You can read that story here.

Have a great weekend!