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Catholics Frustrated with Obama Administration’s Continued Support for Abortion Restrictions

April 11, 2013

“Under the president’s budget for FY 2014, more than nine million women—women who are young, poor or disabled, as well as women serving our country in the military, the Peace Corps, the civil service and many others—will be denied coverage for abortion,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “In the budget, President Obama made the right decision to reinstate federal policy that the District of Columbia may dedicate its own funds towards abortion services under Medicaid—correcting the mistake he made last year when he traded this right away to secure a political deal. Yet this nod to self-determination for the District highlights the difference between some American women having the freedom to access abortion care, and all women having that opportunity. These restrictions are an affront to democracy, to women’s rights and to the people who elected President Obama.

“The president failed to demonstrate that he stands with women, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, when he passed on the opportunity to insist upon comprehensive reproductive healthcare for women on Medicaid. Under the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, abortion is currently only available under very limited circumstances to women who rely on Medicaid and other federal programs for their healthcare or health insurance. The restrictions to access are so burdensome that they prevent or discourage women from getting the care they need and act as a disincentive for providers—as shown by a survey of Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania and a study of Maryland healthcare providers, respectively. As long as the abortion restriction riders exist in the federal budget, women covered by public insurance, such as Medicaid, are often put through a humiliating and stressful gauntlet before accessing abortion care, while others are denied even that opportunity. These policies contradict the Catholic social justice tradition and the premium that Catholics place upon individual conscience. There is no good reason the president did not use his budget proposal to tell Congress to do the right thing—to drop these onerous and unjust restrictions for women on Medicaid and the many other women whose healthcare access is blocked by the Hyde Amendment.

“The administration’s piecemeal approach to reproductive rights undermines the very concept of abortion as a legal right for all women, as expressed in the Roe v. Wade decision President Obama pledged to uphold as recently as this January. The restrictions contained under the president’s budget are an affront to a respect for the religious liberty, rights of conscience and self-determination of American women. The president’s claim to be a defender of women’s rights is belied by his budgetary decisions, and the effects of his proposals are felt most acutely by women who most need our support. We had hoped for more than that; indeed, President Obama himself promised more than what he delivered.”