Republican states trying to ban abortion extend health benefits to new mothers | Abortion
A number of Republican-led states set to ban abortion are simultaneously extending health insurance benefits to new mothers, claiming to support “women in crisis.”
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on national abortion rights, many Republican states are calling for tough abortion bans that would force many women to carry pregnancies to term, likely deepening the crisis maternal mortality in the United States.
Some of those same lawmakers are now passing bills that extend Medicaid benefits to low-income mothers, typically for a year after childbirth rather than the current two months.
Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas have all extended health benefits for low-income mothers in recent months, and Alabama and Georgia have both moved to implement such extensions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. All have also sought to impose severe restrictions or bans on abortion.
Although expanding pregnancy-related health coverage is “a victory in many respects”, it does not make up for the fact that banning abortion “would certainly lead to higher risks of morbidity or mortality kindergarten,” said Sarah Blake, associate professor of health policy at Emory University in Georgia.
Blake said Georgia lawmakers were in “Jekyll and Hyde mode.” Although maternal health advocates, including herself, are “very happy” with the expansion, she said, “we know the state is very anti-women and their access to comprehensive reproductive health services”.
The changes to postpartum benefits come as the Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days on a landmark abortion rights case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A leaked draft opinion showed that conservative justices are on the verge of ending federal abortion protections. If that happened, 26 states would be certain or likely to ban abortion.
“It shows you how [Republicans] are not acting in good faith,” said Loretta Ross, an associate professor at Smith College in Georgia and an activist for reproductive justice. “If they really cared about maternal death, they would reduce the causes of maternal death – and that goes way beyond expanding Medicaid.”
State lawmakers in Democratic- and Republican-led states have made changes to Medicaid, a federal-state partnership that provides health insurance to the poor and disabled, to leverage federal pandemic assistance that streamlined postpartum benefit changes.
However, the most dramatic effects would be in Republican-led states, where lawmakers have long refused to expand the program to more low-income people.
The denial is a legacy of the Obamacare debates. Back in the days of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, Republicans sued to stop the expansion of Medicaid. They succeeded in the Supreme Court, and each state was forced to individually enact the Medicaid expansion.
A dozen states, mostly in the southern United States, still refuse to do so, even though the federal government would pay 90% of the costs of expanding the program.
Expanding Medicaid only to postpartum women seems like a way for Republican-led states to defend their aid to a sympathetic group, even as they oppose broader Medicaid expansion and ban abortion, a said Ross.
In Texas, for example – a state where a quarter of women of childbearing age do not have health insurance, the highest rate in the country and which is among the 10 worst states for maternal mortality – lawmakers have recently extended Medicaid to pregnant patients for six months. after childbirth, instead of two.
A single adult with two children cannot earn more than $2,760 a year and qualify for Medicaid — unless they are pregnant, in which case they can earn up to $45,600 a year and qualify . However, the exemption previously only lasted 60 days after birth — the federal minimum — after which most people become uninsured again.
The six-month extension is welcome but insufficient, said Erika Ramirez, director of policy and advocacy for the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition: “We’ve had six, which is better than nothing… [But] again and again, [the] best recommendation [from maternal health experts] enabled women to receive postpartum care for a full 12 months.
When the legislation was signed into law, Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, who sponsored it, described the Medicaid expansion as a “bipartisan effort to help keep Texas moms healthy and provide the care necessary to prevent death and preventable disease”.
Yet just two days before the bill passed the Senate, Kolkhorst and his fellow Republicans passed a comprehensive abortion ban, which is expected to go into effect immediately if the U.S. Supreme Court ends federal protections. against abortion. It is one of 26 abortion restrictions Kolkhorst has voted for during her 11-year career as a lawmaker.
A similar effort to simultaneously expand Medicaid to pregnant women and ban abortion is going on in Alabama. There, one of the most vocal proponents of expansion is Republican State Rep. Debbie Wood, who also opposes abortion in almost all circumstances, including rape and incest. .
Kolkhorst could not be reached for comment and Wood did not respond to interview requests.
In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Lee has directly linked the state’s postpartum Medicaid expansion and abortion. At a press conference in May, he spoke about Tennessee’s “trigger” ban, a law that will allow the state to immediately ban abortion if the Supreme Court terminates federal protections.
“The lives of unborn children – it is very important that we protect their lives,” he said, adding: “It is also important that we recognize that women in crisis need support and assistance while throughout this process. For example, that’s why we’ve expanded our postpartum coverage for TennCare women.”
“This type of strategy pits people in need against each other,” Ross said. “We’re supposed to advocate for postpartum women to get Medicaid and fuck everyone who needs it? It’s a classic divide-and-conquer strategy.