The first three phases of the federal coronavirus response did not go far enough to protect the health and rights of pregnant people, immigrants, Planned Parenthood patients, and people who live outside of the United States. We must do more.
The U.S. government’s response so far to the COVID-19 pandemic makes clear that the next relief bill passed by Congress must include these six essential protections:
1.) Access to safe, legal abortion
2.) Access to health care at Planned Parenthood and other essential safety net providers
3.) Free COVID-19 tests and treatment for all
4.) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all health care providers and other frontline workers
5.) Support for and collaboration with international partners working to address global health
6.) Reforms that allows people to vote safely and securely
Here’s why we’re calling on Congress to ensure that these measures are included.
Background: The Good
You may have only seen news about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — which was the most recent relief package. But it was actually the third of its kind:
On March 6, President Trump signed the first phase of the federal coronavirus response into law. It allocated $8.3 billion in emergency aid toward federal, state, and local public health prevention and preparedness programs, including medical supplies and research for a vaccine.
On March 18, President Trump signed the second phase of the federal response into law, which focused on families and provided much-needed relief for employers and employees who were suffering as a result of COVID-19.
On March 27, President Trump signed the CARES Act into law. The $2.2 trillion stimulus package helps hard-hit industries. It provides financial support for employers, individuals (including health care workers), and state and local governments (including a small down payment for safe and secure elections) — as well as targeted funding for refugees and those impacted by ongoing humanitarian crises worldwide.
That all sounds great — but it’s important to look at what was missing in the bills. The worst part: The CARES Act included politically motivated anti-abortion and anti-immigrant provisions, which could have dire consequences.
Background: The Bad
How the CARES Act Limits Abortion Access
People have to be able to access the health care they need without politics getting in the way. But the CARES Act expands the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid and other federal health programs from covering abortion.
How the CARES Act Leaves Out Immigrants’ Access to Care
Immigrant communities already face disproportionate barriers to health care, and the CARES Act does not increase access to treatment and health care coverage that immigrant communities need. This lack of coverage could keep immigrants from getting the care they need — which increases the difficulty of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Further, the economic relief bill excludes “mixed status” households, where one or multiple people are undocumented.
How the CARES Act Falls Short for People Worldwide
Although the bill has some support for assistance beyond U.S. borders, we as global citizens will not beat this disease without additional investments in a coordinated global response with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies.
The 6 Pillars of a Coronavirus Response Package that Protects Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
It should go without saying that sexual and reproductive health is an important part of public health. And public health matters because without it, all of us are less safe and secure.
We know the health and safety of Americans — particularly their sexual and reproductive health and rights — simply won’t be protected without the following six must-have measures.
Protect Abortion Access
Reproductive health is essential health care. That includes abortion, which is both essential and time-sensitive. A global pandemic is not the time to play a political game with people’s lives. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening — from the White House to state houses.
For the next coronavirus response package to successfully respond to the pandemic, it cannot be used to introduce or further expand domestic or global abortion restrictions, such as the harmful Hyde amendment and the global gag rule.
Ensure Access to Planned Parenthood Health Centers and Other Providers
Planned Parenthood remains committed to working with other public health providers, hospitals, and organizations to serve patients and the community in every way possible during these uncertain and unsettling times.
To that end, there can be no provisions that limit provider participation or that target any essential provider — including Planned Parenthood.
Access to No-Cost COVID-19 Tests and Treatment for All
Any successful relief package must ensure access to health care, including no-cost COVID-19 testing and treatment. That’s not just for the rich and famous. To heal our nation, we need this access for everyone — no matter where they live, how much money they have, or what their immigration status might be.
Access to PPE for All Health Care Providers and Other Frontline Workers
We can’t fight this pandemic without our frontline workers. It is imperative that all health care providers and frontline workers get the PPE and other resources they need to stay healthy and do their jobs.
Participate and Invest in International Collaboration and Global Health
Our country can’t control COVID-19 on its own. To make sure no person or community is left behind, the United States must support a comprehensive and coordinated global pandemic response that upholds the health and rights of the most marginalized communities around the world.
The next coronavirus response package will not be complete unless it:
Invests in global health programs, including international reproductive health programs;
Targets resources to communities in economically developing countries that already face the greatest barriers to care, including women, young people, LGBTQ people, and refugees; and
Supports WHO and UN agencies, including UNFPA. The Trump-Pence administration has blocked U.S. funding for UNFPA since 2017, but UNFPA is doing great work to respond to COVID-19 — strengthening the global supply chain, engaging communities in risk reduction, promoting maternal health, and protecting women from gender-based violence that persists amid this global crisis.
Ensure Safe and Secure Elections
In the United States, people overwhelmingly support access to safe, legal abortion — but elected officials are doubling down on attacking access. That makes voting absolutely critical to protecting reproductive health care. Meanwhile, politicians who want as few people to vote as possible are forcing too many Americans to choose between their own safety and exercising their right to vote.
To allow Americans to vote safely and securely, we must have robust voting reform policies and funding. The next COVID response package should include at least an additional $3.6 billion in federal funds for voting reforms, including:
An extended early in-person voting period, allowing for voters to come in over a spread-out period rather than in a cluster on Election Day;
Absentee voting-by-mail that doesn’t require an excuse, and includes options through which to request and return ballots;
Expanded voter registration options, including online voter registration and same-day voter registration;
Prohibition of polling place adjustments that disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, such as people of color, Native Americans, limited-English proficient citizens, people with disabilities, and students; and
Voter education, informing the public of new practices and immediately quashing disinformation as it arises.
With these six essential measures, we expect the next coronavirus response package to make important improvements in protecting the health and rights of people in the United States and around the world.
Take Action: Call Your Senators!
People should not have to choose between their health and their vote — and there’s no time to lose. Call your Senators today to ask them to include more funding for safe and secure elections in the next stimulus package.