On September 9, the Philadelphia feminist community held a truly inspirational event—a rally for the All Above All bus tour, organized by the Women’s Medical Fund. According to the statement on its website, All Above All was formed to “unite organizations and individuals to build support for lifting bans that deny abortion coverage… so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.”
There were powerful speeches by Women’s Medical Fund Director Susan Schewel, Philadelphia NOW President Nina Ahmad, City Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Blondell Reynolds Brown, among others. Nina Ahmad’s well-reasoned, inspirational speech is posted here.
For more information about the event and the issues see posts by Tara Murphy and by Jasmine Burnett
In recent years the feminist movement has backed away from the struggle to insure that all women regardless of their economic resources have access to the full range of reproductive health services. In Pennsylvania, the coalition supporting the PA Women’s Health Agenda --which if enacted would be major step forward for women--has not included Medicaid funding for abortion, ostensibly fearing it might jeopardize passage of other measures that would greatly benefit women.
The only reference to abortion in the PA Women's Health Agenda is the proposed legislation: “Ensuring access to health care facilities: H.B. 1891, sponsored by Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1208, sponsored by Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Phila. This legislation would create 15-foot buffer zones around health care facilities where picketing, patrolling or demonstrating that blocks patients’ access to the facilities would be banned.”
Protecting women’s right to access health care facilities is critically important but if a woman lacks the resources to pay for an abortion, protection from harassment doesn’t do much for her.
If the Women’s Health Agenda were an omnibus bill and we were asking legislators to vote the entire agenda up or down, I could understand the argument that including Medicaid funding for abortion would jeopardize the other provisions. But the approach is not all or nothing, but rather to focus on particular issues in stages.
Yes, Medicaid funding for abortion in PA is not politically possible right now. However, we have seen rapid changes in public attitudes regarding issues also thought politically impossible—e.g., marriage equality, decriminalization of marijuana.
When feminists draw up a women’s health agenda, “women” must include all women, and "health care" must include the full range of women’s health care including access to abortion.