ITHACA, NY – On Wednesday, the Ithaca Common Council passed unanimously a resolution in support of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act.
The EACH Act is a piece of legislation that aims to change federal policy on insurance coverage for abortions, and prevent political interference with private insurance companies choice to offer abortion coverage.
Currently, abortions are not covered by any federal medical insurance programs. In particular, this impacts women who get health insurance through medicaid, though it also affects other women on federal healthcare programs, including women in prison, some veterans, federal employees, and others.
Critics of the current policy point out that denying coverage for abortions has a disproportionate impact on low-income women. They are either forced to pay for the procedure out-of-pocket, which can put them in an even worse financial situation, or they are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Several members of the public came to speak in support of the resolution. One woman shared her own story of facing an unwanted pregnancy, saying that despite the fact that she had family support, a college education and a good job, the financial impact was still a major consideration.
“When I think about the window of women who do not currently have access to abortion, because they are low-income, many of whom are uneducated and do not the have the opportunities to persevere through something this, it’s fairly infuriating,” she said.
The resolution does not represent a policy change, but rather is a call on higher legislative bodies to change the policies around abortion coverage.
A statement from Planned Parenthood notes that the resolution was fitting for Ithaca, as it was the home of Republican Assemblywoman Connie Cook, who fought to decriminalize abortion in New York State in 1970. Ithaca is the second city in New York — following New York City — to pass such a resolution.
“For me, this is a human rights issue. It’s an equity issue,” said Alderperson Cynthia Brock, who proposed the resolution. “I’m kind of amazed that here we are in 2016 and despite the fight that’s been going for decades, we’re still here, we’re still facing the same fight.”
Brock said that while the Common Council generally refrains from making statements on broad national issues, she felt that this resolution was appropriate, as a stand against the growing trend of communities that are actively trying to limit womens’ access to abortion.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to county, state and federal lawmakers. The hope is that the resolution will spur similar resolutions at the county level and in other municipalities throughout the state and country, so as to create a foundation of support for a policy change.
(Featured photo courtesy of the Center for Reproductive Rights)