September 17, 2014, Washington, DC - Leaders representing members of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) came to Washington today to urge members of Congress to end federal bans that deny abortion coverage to women enrolled in federal health plans and programs. They joined nearly 200 other like-minded individuals as part of an advocacy and education effort mounted by All Above All, an NCJW-endorsed national campaign that unites organizations and individuals to build support for lifting the bans that deny abortion coverage.
The Washington, DC, event was the culmination of All Above All’s Be Bold Road Trip, a cross country effort that coordinated events across eight states to raise awareness about the harmful impact of restrictive federal policies such as the Hyde Amendment. Since passage of Hyde in 1976, politicians have withheld abortion coverage from the nearly one in seven women of reproductive age enrolled in the Medicaid program, as well as women who are federal workers, Peace Corps volunteers, and Native American women, among others. NCJW has long fought to end such bans and to ensure that every woman has the ability to obtain an abortion on the same basis as she obtains any other needed reproductive health care service.
Rabbi Lori Koffman of New York City, NCJW national board member and chair of NCJW’s reproductive justice initiative, asserts that lifting bans on abortion coverage is key not only to protecting women’s health and safety, but safeguarding her moral agency. “Getting rid of bans is not only about protecting a woman’s health, but also her religious liberty. The decision to end a pregnancy is deeply personal, and every woman must be able to follow her own faith tradition, moral values, and conscience in making this decision,” Rabbi Koffman said, adding, “By denying abortion coverage, legislators impose one religious view about abortion on all of us — interfering in a woman’s personal decision and denying her religious freedom.”
Participants in the Washington Lobby Day were equally adamant. “I came to Washington because I believe our lawmakers have an obligation to ensure every woman can access the health care she needs, including abortion, without risking her or her family’s economic security,” said Linda Slucker, immediate past president of NCJW. She added, “Congress should not restrict one woman’s ability to obtain the care that is best for her, just because she is poor. That kind of discrimination is unacceptable, and many people of faith believe as I do.”
Bans such as the Hyde Amendment most harm low-income women, who today are disproportionately women of color. When a woman cannot afford to access abortion, the consequences on her and her family can be far-reaching. Women who seek abortion but are denied are three times more likely to fall into poverty than those who can obtain such care.
To highlight the myriad harmful ways that coverage bans impact women and families across the country, the All Above All road trip began in Los Angeles on August 9, visiting 12 cities and logging 10,000 miles. In addition to NCJW’s participation in the All Above All Hill Education Day, NCJW leaders spoke at rallies in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. They helped mobilize for the Chicago rally and the Philadelphia event, where they were also part of the planning efforts. In Rochester, NCJW assisted in the effort to gather signatures on a petition urging Congress to lift coverage bans and also helped plan the local event.
Additional NCJW participants in the Lobby Day include Linda Slucker of West Orange, New Jersey (NCJW immediate past president); Joni Cohan of Dallas, Texas; Meryl Gindin, Bala Cynwyd, Penn., Donna Gutman, Chicago and Carole Levine, Evanston, Ill.; Sharon Lipton, Waterford, Mich.; Anne London, Lutherville, Md.; Stella Sayles, New York City, N.Y.; Janet Solitt, Fort Lauderdale Fla.; and Sue Tilis, Atlanta, Ga.
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. More information on Facebook and on Twitter at @NCJW.