I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Pro-choice advocates push to lift ban on federal funding for abortion
ALBUQUERQUE — When state laws restrict Medicaid funding for abortion, one in four women who would choose to have one are instead forced to carry their pregnancy to term because they can’t afford the procedure themselves, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute and Ibis Reproductive Health.
But looking at that figure another way, 75 percent of women who can’t get a Medicaid-funded abortion get one another way, indicating that the restrictions don’t work particularly well at reducing abortion.
The numbers give pro-choice advocates in Washington more ammunition in their fight to push change through a Democratically controlled Congress and White House. They are arguing for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for abortion.
“In his recent budget proposal, President Obama had the option of calling on Congress to end the funding restrictions imposed by the federal Hyde Amendment. We are disappointed that he did not do so,” Heather Boonstra, a Guttmacher senior public policy associate, says in a release. “It is time for Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment and restore Medicaid coverage for abortion so that every woman, regardless of her economic circumstances, has the right to decide when and whether to have a child.”
Money isn’t the point, says Dauneen Dolce of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico. New Mexico is one of a minority of states that uses its own money to pay for abortions for poor women, but access and affordability are still major hurdles.
“Abortions done in the early part of pregnancy cost anywhere from $200 to $400, so most women can come up with that, or their boyfriends can or whatever. If they can’t afford it, then there is funding available,” Dolce says.
In fact, 32 states and the District of Columbia restrict the use of Medicaid funds for abortion, limiting the funds to cases of rape and incest, or if the woman’s life is endangered. New Mexico is one of only 17 states that uses its own funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions.
“What do they want, the government giving them more money instead of changing their lifestyle? I don’t know what they want, but it seems to me that rather than dealing with the money subject they should be dealing with changing their lifestyle,” Dolce says.
“Everyone has a right to express their sexuality. That’s a sacred gift and how they choose to express that, the government has no business knowing.” Lamunyon Sanford says, adding that most of NMRCRC’s clients are married women.
Stanley Henshaw, the study’s lead author says that the study indicates that health policy should focus more on better access and use of contraceptives.
“Antiabortion advocates are using these restrictions [on federal funding] in a misguided attempt to reduce the nation’s abortion rate. Instead, we should be focusing on reducing the underlying cause of abortion — unintended pregnancy,” Henshaw said in a press release.
Dolce argues that preventing an unwanted pregnancy, either through contraception or abstinence, requires personal responsibility, and she’s frustrated that taxpayers should foot the bill for undesired results.
“Nobody’s taking responsibility for their actions, and the taxpayers’ money has to pay for their irresponsibility,” Dolce says.
Abortion rights advocates say that position is unreasonable.
“A woman’s average life span includes at least 40 years of fertility. And to expect perfection in contraception is a little extreme. It’s unrealistic. And very judgmental,” Lamunyon Sanford says.
“We do need to pour more money into contraception. Contraception is very responsible. And when contraception fails, abortion is a moral and responsible choice.”
It’s still an expensive choice, however. Even if the state covers the cost of the procedure, many women who live far from an abortion provider, which is common in New Mexico, must spend extra money just to get to a city with a provider, usually Albuquerque.
NMRCRC, funded by donations, helps poor women pay some of those costs. The organization’s clients earn an average of $800 per month and often struggle to pay not only the cost of the procedure, but the costs of taking time off work, traveling to Albuquerque, paying for hotel rooms and prescription medicines. NMRCRC offers free bus tickets, volunteers put up women in their homes, and the organization gives away gift cards for hot meals.