Opinion

Insurance restrictions on abortion coverage harm patients – Mansi Shah, M.D.

Dr. Mansi Shah, M.D.
Dr. Mansi Shah, M.D.

Giving birth to a child is a beautiful and thrilling experience. Even for those women who have desired pregnancies, however, this process is fraught with complications.

As a medical student, I learned that it was safer to have an abortion in the first trimester than to carry a pregnancy to term. During medical school and now residency, I have seen firsthand the changes to a woman’s body and complications that happen during pregnancy and childbirth. These range from pain, discomfort, and swelling to high blood pressure, hemorrhages, tears, blood clots, and many more. No woman should have to go through pregnancy and endure such risks if she does not wish to do so.

The Hyde Amendment is a regulation that often pushes women to carry pregnancies longer or to term. Since 1976, this restriction has prohibited Medicaid from covering and funding abortion procedures, thereby directly targeting women with fewer financial resources. The Hyde Amendment can force women to carry pregnancies longer while gathering the funds to pay for an abortion. Because the options for an abortion procedure become more limited further into pregnancy, having to wait to access a procedure makes it harder to have one done and increases the risk of complications. Ultimately, this prevents some women from being able to access an abortion at all.

The Hyde Amendment now has a greater reach beyond women accessing health care through Medicaid. Similar legislation now prevents federal employees and women accessing care through the Indian Health Services from being able to receive abortion care through their insurance. In North Carolina specifically, the North Carolina General Assembly has passed several laws that prohibit state, county, and city employees and those who buy private insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from accessing coverage for abortion care through their insurance.

During medical school, I saw many women in the waiting room of a local abortion clinic with their young children in tow. I have come to see abortion not as a procedure that takes something away, but as one that enables mothers and their partners to parent the children they have in the most meaningful way. Regardless of the many reasons why women seek abortions, it is my responsibility as a medical provider to ensure that these procedures can be accessed and done safely. The Hyde Amendment is one of many restrictions that unjustly targets and limits families with fewer financial resources, making abortion less safe and leaving women with fewer options to make a dignified decision that reflects what they feel is best for them.

Mansi Shah, M.D. is a family medicine resident doctor in Durham. All opinions and viewpoints expressed are her own.

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