The September 10, 2021, episode of CounterSpin included an archival interview Janine Jackson conducted with Kimberly Inez McGuire about abortion rights vs. access, which originally aired January 29, 2021. This is a lightly edited transcript.
Janine Jackson: In January 2021, CounterSpin spoke with Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of the group URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. We asked her first about how courts have reaffirmed Roe time and again, but that still didn’t get at the layers and layers between what the court says women can legally do and what they can actually do.
Kimberly Inez McGuire: The gulf between the theoretical legality of abortion in this country and the lived experience of people trying to get an abortion is wide and getting wider. And so much of the restrictions on abortion are rendered invisible because they only appear based on who you are, where you live, and frankly, how much money you have in the bank.
So when we look at the layers upon layers, you know, we go back to the Hyde Amendment, which is older than I am. And it’s a federal policy that prevents Medicaid from covering abortion. And it was passed in short order after the Roe v. Wade decision. And so what happened was, the Supreme Court said abortion’s legal. Folks rejoiced, right? This was a big deal. And almost immediately thereafter, the door was closed on any low-income women who get their insurance through Medicaid. And so for decades, if you are using Medicaid as your insurance, abortion access is not real to you.
We then have seen, since 2010, this newer tsunami of abortion restrictions, literally hundreds and hundreds of new abortion laws passed in almost every state in the country. There’s a handful of states that have held the line. But all over the country we are seeing restrictions on who can get an abortion, where they can get an abortion, restrictions designed to shut down clinics, restrictions targeting young people, right? And this has created a labyrinth for anyone who’s just trying to navigate getting basic healthcare.
And so, again, we have this sort of legal fiction of Roe that says abortion is legal. But if you can’t afford it, if you are young and can’t get your parents to sign off on your decision, if there’s not a clinic in your neighborhood, if the clinic in your neighborhood has been shut down by a state legislature that was targeting them, all of these things can become insurmountable barriers in the real-life experience of trying to end a pregnancy.
JJ: Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, and there was the Hyde Amendment in 1976. And it’s important, I think, to remember that Henry Hyde, the Republican congressman from Illinois, and the supporters of the amendment were very clear that they wanted to make abortion unavailable for all women. But it was only women receiving Medicaid that they had power over.
Getting rid of the Hyde Amendment—it’s not permanent law; it can be eliminated. That’s one concrete action that President Biden could take right now. It seems like, as we record on the 28th, we’ve just had a statement, and no mention of Hyde.
KIM: You know, we are hopeful but cautious. As many folks know, President Biden has had a somewhat public evolution on the Hyde Amendment, where after, frankly, the nationwide outcries during the campaign, he then made clear that he would be committed to ending the Hyde Amendment. So we’re grateful that he took that position publicly, but we also are really clear that accountability is going to be necessary to make sure that that promise is kept.
And we have seen a few statements from the administration so far around the topic of abortion; they frankly have not gone far enough. The Biden administration statement on the Roe anniversary—in addition to not actually using the word “abortion,” which is concerning in and of itself—did not make clear a commitment to ending the racist Hyde Amendment, which, as you pointed to, with the pro-abortion rights majority in the House and the Senate, with the White House, there is no reason that Hyde, or any coverage ban, should appear in the next round of federal budgets. So now is the time for the lawmakers, the president and those in Congress who have said that they oppose Hyde, well, they’ve got the power now, and people across the country are watching to see how they use that power.
JJ: I just want to add that Hart just did some research: significant majority, 62% of voters, favor Medicaid coverage of abortion services, as against 38% opposed; there’s majority support among men, women, all age groups, all education levels.
Words are powerful. It does matter that Biden didn’t use the word “abortion” in his statement on the Roe anniversary. And framing is powerful, which is why I appreciate the way that you at URGE and others describe legal abortion as “the floor, not the ceiling,” as part of that expansive understanding of reproductive justice. Can you talk a little bit about how we talk about abortion, and why it matters? What are you trying to do with that “floor, not the ceiling” phrase?
KIM: Absolutely. So I think there’s a few key pieces here. One is about how we show respect to people who have had abortions. And first and foremost, those who have had abortions deserve the dignity of recognition. We need to use the word “abortion.” We need to talk about abortion as necessary healthcare and as a social good. Anything less, honestly, disregards and disrespects the one-in-four women in this country who have sought out this healthcare. So that’s the first piece, is just saying the word “abortion.” It’s not a bad word. It’s a word that’s saved people’s lives and helped shape better futures.
The other piece around “the floor, not the ceiling” is: for people with economic resources, what is a legal right on paper has so much more meaning than for people who are blocked because of economic barriers, because of racial barriers.
So we look at something like abortion access: Even before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal across large swaths of the country, the reality is that women of means have always been able to get abortions; that has always been the reality for people with money.
The vision for reproductive justice is not just: You have a theoretical right to abortion if you can fight your way through all of the muck and the restrictions. Reproductive justice means that if you’ve decided to end a pregnancy, you can do so safely, with dignity, without upending your family’s economic security, and without being subjected to, frankly, misogynist hate speech and stigma.
JJ: That was Kimberly Inez McGuire from URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, talking with CounterSpin in January of 2021.
The post ‘Restrictions on Abortion Are Invisible Because They Appear Based on Who You Are’ appeared first on FAIR.
This content originally appeared on FAIR and was authored by Janine Jackson.