The EACH Woman Act could help 28 million women access safe abortions
It's hard to keep up with the anti-abortion legislation coming from not just the new White House administration, but from state legislatures across the country. But Rep. Barbara Lee is getting ahead of the curve with a House Resolution that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, the 1976 measure that bars the government from funding abortion and disproportionately targets low-income women and women of color.
While Democrats in Congress have been fighting against the Hyde Amendment since its passage, there's now a renewed urgency surrounding the legislation as Republicans seek to make the amendment permanent.
Lee isn't going to take that sitting down — and neither will the more than 100 representatives who've already signed on as co-sponsors to her proposed resolution, called the EACH Woman Act.
According to the Center for American Progress, if signed into law, the EACH Woman Act would provide as many as 28.5 million women access to abortion coverage. This stunning figure represents women in the military, women in the Peace Corps, federal female employees and, most of all, women covered by Medicaid, who make up 14.9 million of those for whom it is more difficult to access their constitutional right to have an abortion.
"We are seeing the war on women get more intense," Lee said in an interview. "We have to be very aggressive and fight hard not only to maintain the rights we have, but to move forward and get rid of any restrictions on our rights."
Lee said she remembers all too clearly the day that Henry Hyde, a Republican representative from Illinois, successfully passed the legislation in Congress. At the time, Lee was working for Rep. Ron Dellums, a "great feminist man" she said was staunchly opposed to the amendment.
"I was so devastated because I remembered the days before Roe v. Wade," Lee said. "I remembered back-alley abortions, women going to other countries to have an abortion and women dying from coat-hanger abortions."
When she was elected to the House in 1993, Lee joined the Pro-Choice Caucus and pledged she would fight against all assaults on abortion rights in the U.S. When the time was right, she told herself, she would introduce legislation that would get rid of the Hyde Amendment once and for all.
That time came in 2015, when she first introduced the EACH Woman Act to similarly overwhelming support. However, since the act was stalled in committee, Lee had to reintroduce it to the new incoming Congress.
Though with a Republican-controlled executive and legislative branch, it may feel like a daunting — if not impossible — task to pass any kind of pro-choice legislation, Lee said the power still rests in the hands of the people.
Those marching, protesting and rallying in the streets are creating what she calls "street heat" — the support Democrats need to garner support for their legislation, and the antagonism that makes it harder for Republicans to get things done.
"Sometimes we have to work harder than other times," Lee said. "If you feel down and out, just know that they're going to want to run the show — and we can't let that happen."