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The Matter of Choice: Give women the right to control their own care

The Hyde Amendment, which was 39 years old Wednesday, puts many women in the position of choosing between their health and their family’s economic security.

Since the passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976 and every year since, Congress has withheld coverage for abortion services from those who depend on Medicaid or Medicare, or receive insurance through the federal government. That includes federal employees and their dependents, Peace Corp volunteers, Native Americans, survivors of human trafficking and women in the military and their dependents.

The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice believes that our laws must affirm fair treatment; respect each woman’s ability to make her own faith-informed health care decisions; safeguard the economic security of every woman and her family, and – above all – protect the health and safety of each woman in need of medical care.

We cannot know what is to confront the obstacles in another’s path, the loves and obligations she answers to, or know the beliefs that lend her strength.

When politicians deny women insurance coverage for abortion, they create profoundly harmful effects on public health, particularly for those who already face significant barriers to receiving affordable, accessible, reliable health care.

Low-income women, immigrant women, women who receive care from community health centers, young women, women living in rural communities and women of color already confront many obstacles when accessing health care. When health insurance covers pregnancy care but withholds coverage for abortion, we’re taking away a woman’s ability and responsibility to make important, personal decisions based on her circumstances.

However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be able to deny a woman’s health coverage because of how she is insured. We know that a woman’s ability to determine her own future is not a privilege but a right, and what makes us equal is not the circumstance of our birth or the size of our paycheck, but our common humanity.

Our vision is to restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, however she gets her insurance, can access the full range of pregnancy-related care she needs, so she can determine for herself if and when to become a parent.

When a woman is living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage for an abortion can push her deeper into poverty. Indeed, studies show that a woman who seeks an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who is able to get an abortion.

We believe each person must be able to follow their own beliefs, moral code and conscience when making personal life decisions and a law that hinders a woman’s ability and responsibility to make these decisions threatens us all.

We stand for a world where each of us may live fully, in which each of us is free to follow our conscience, without imposing it on others.

Our nation is home to people of many different faith traditions, each with unique values regarding reproductive health and many supporting legal access to abortion care.

Together, we can find kinship in the recognition of our individuality, and become allies in spite of our differences.

Together we can rise to the challenge of our collective conscience, listen with compassion and seek justice.

As people of faith and conscience, we believe that it is our moral responsibility to speak out against policies that harm marginalized members of our communities.

Repealing the Hyde Amendment would advance these shared principles by ensuring a woman can access abortion coverage no matter her income, insurance or where she lives.

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