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States across the country are struggling to determine whether and how to provide the most vulnerable access to abortion through Medicaid. Alina Salganicoff, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Marsha Jones of The Afiya Center, a reproductive justice organization in Texas, join Nick Schifrin to discuss.
Across the country, states are struggling to determine whether and how to provide the most vulnerable access to abortion. One of every five American women between the ages of 15 and 49 is covered by Medicaid. For decades congressional regulations have prohibited federal funds from being used for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and if the pregnancy threatens the woman's life. The Medicaid is a federal and state program allowing 16 states to pay for abortions outside federal restrictions.
Our state's approaching this challenge now. To discuss this, I'm joined by Alina Salganicoff, a Senior Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Marsha Jones of The Afiya Center, a Reproductive Justice Organization in Texas. Welcome, both of you to "PBS News Weekend."
Alina Salganicoff, let me start with you. Are states today that protect abortion rights, adjusting their Medicaid policies to help women seeking abortion?
Alina Salganicoff, Director of Women's Health Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation: They're trying to do what they can to protect abortion access in terms of protecting clinicians and women from criminality in other states, as well as providing funds. So they're also supporting infrastructure so that abortion clinics have the necessary means to provide abortions not only for the women who reside in those states, from people who will be coming from other states as well.
Marsha Jones, who is bearing the brunt of this problem when it comes to abortion access and Medicaid?
Marsha Jones, Executive Director, The Afiya Center:
So poor women are bearing the brunt of this. Specifically poor, non-white women. So poor black women, poor Hispanic women, poor Indigenous women are bearing the brunt. So the folks who have the least access are the folk who are bearing the brunt of this.
Alina Salganicoff, I think it's important that you explain one thing, which is, can a woman travel across state borders, using Medicaid in order to get an abortion in a state that still has abortion rights?
Typically, Medicaid only pays for services that are provided in the States. So there are cases where Medicaid can pay for care out of state, but that's very unusual. And the out of state provider has to have a relationship with Medicaid. I will say that all of the women that will be with Medicaid, who will be needing to travel out of state, it is very unlikely that their Medicaid program will pay for their abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.
And to Marsha Jones, given that restriction, given the people who you said you've been trying to help, what are you hearing from the women who are reaching out to you?
So we're hearing women who are without resources, who are without a plan, who are without a next step? They literally don't know what to do, even when you're hearing conversations that say the abortion pill will be available, self-managed abortions, not if you're already 14 weeks gestation, you know, not if you're already late in gestation. That sounds good, but it's not going to be available for the women that we serve. And we're talking about Texas. We are talking about Texas, no exception.
Alina Salganicoff, on Friday, President Biden issued an executive order aimed at protecting access to reproductive health services, will have any impact on this discussion that we're having right now?
I think the President wanted to make clear that he was putting the full force of the federal government to the extent possible to assure that people have access to the full range of reproductive health services. The issue is that the Supreme Court has turned this back to the States. So while the federal government, I think can do some things and the President has directed the Secretary and the Department of Justice to try to put protections in place. It will be limited because you are going to have states that have full on bans. It's going to be really impossible for a lot of women to cross the states, go across the state and long distances to get abortions regardless of what the federal government does.
And Alina Salganicoff, staying with you, in terms of this question of Medicaid and access, what do you say to those people who are against federally guaranteed abortion rights?
Well, the Supreme Court has had a long standing precedent that established the right to abortion, this decision is the first one that's taken away any constitutional right. So regardless of where you stand, this decision will have seismic repercussions that affect abortion access most directly, but also will have implications for a broad range of services that are important to women, ranging from emergency cared, cancer care, care for autoimmune diseases, I think the ripple effects are just emerging. And so this is going to affect you, regardless of where you stand on the abortion debate.
And finally, Marsha Jones, I wonder if you could explain what would happen to you, if you were to help a woman in Texas cross the state line to get an abortion?
If I help someone cross the state line, because it's aiding and abetting, it's very clear, aiding and abetting, giving people money, helping them to cross the state lines, were even limited to the information that we can give because we are trying to provide people with a basic health care need because reproductive health care is health care could literally be criminalized.
Marsha Jones, Alina Salganicoff, thank you very much to both.
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