Madison has always been characterized by its atmosphere of openness, equality and justice. However, we have recently been reminded of the inequities that surround us — in policing, education, housing and access to health care. Our community is at an important moment in its history: Will we stand up for the marginalized and vulnerable amongst us?
I entered public service to find solutions to the inequalities that divide our community. That is why I introduced and, along with my City Council colleagues, unanimously passed a resolution calling for comprehensive funding of women’s health care. While it does not address all the disparities our city faces, this resolution tackles one very important issue: restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion. In bringing forth this resolution, the Madison City Council is taking a stand to say that the amount of money a woman has should not prohibit her from having an abortion. We must not allow women and families to suffer simply because they cannot afford the health care they need. With this resolution, we are saying loud and clear: We will not look the other way.
On the federal and state levels, lawmakers have put unfair limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, specifically by withholding coverage from qualified women seeking abortion care. One such restriction is the Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress on Sept. 30, 1976, which for nearly 39 years has impeded access to abortion care for low-income women enrolled in Medicaid and a host of other federal insurance programs. These bans on insurance coverage are a sad example of government-sanctioned inequality.
Restrictions on abortion funding exemplify structural inequities because they disproportionately impact low-income women, women of color, immigrant women and young women, who already face too many barriers in getting the resources, information and services they need. Many of these same women are leading the fight to protect their children and families from unjust policing practices. Being able to decide when to parent, and being able to parent her children in a safe and healthy community is each woman’s right. This alone won’t solve the inequities in our system, but it is an important step.
Sadly, attacking the most vulnerable among us seems to be a game of sport for anti-choice politicians. Just last week, members of Congress attempted to slip a ban on funding for abortion into a bill meant to protect survivors of human trafficking. And closer to home, Scott Walker has asserted that he will sign a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, even though there is no such legislation before him. The common thread is the idea that women’s lives are not their own, that our rights are expendable, and that access to abortion care is nothing more than a political chip to be traded away.
Those of us who represent the true spirit of Madison must stand up and take action. The resolution passed by the council serves as a call to action to our state legislators, the governor, and our representatives in Washington, D.C., to make access to abortion care fair and equal, rather than dependent on economic status and insurance type.
The Madison City Council is proud to join the ranks of other cities and counties across the country building a groundswell to combat the unfair and unjust bans on abortion coverage. Local leaders in Cambridge, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Travis County, Texas, have all begun to fight back against federal and state restrictions on abortion coverage by passing similar resolutions.
For a woman to have full control of her health, she needs to be able to, along with her health care provider, come to a decision about what is best for her and her family. But for far too many of our friends and neighbors in Madison, this is not a reality. This resolution says every member of our community deserves the right to dignity and self-determination.
Madison residents will be healthier, more secure and more equal if we have a system in which every woman can get the health care she needs, regardless of what kind of insurance she has or how much money she makes.
This resolution is one small step, but one in which we should all be united in standing up against the forces and people who want to divide, discriminateand ultimately strip the most vulnerable among us of our basic rights.
Lisa Subeck is city of Madison alderwoman in District 1 and state representative in Assembly District 78.
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