Anti-abortion lawmakers have gone to great lengths to block abortion access, and this week marks a shameful milestone in their efforts: The 40th year of the Hyde Amendment, which keeps Medicaid and other government insurance plans from covering abortion.
On the eve of this awful anniversary, conservative members of a Congressional Committee held a hearing on the Hyde Amendment — but instead of addressing how Hyde hurts low-income women of color, they showed their true colors by comparing abortion to slavery and Black genocide. Kierra Johnson, Executive Director for URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality) and hearing witness, set them straight when she said, “It’s interesting that we’re bringing up slavery in this space. When you own somebody’s decision-making, you own them.”
The History of the Hyde Amendment
On September 30, 1976, U.S. Representative Henry Hyde (a Republican from Illinois) pushed forward an idea to carve out abortion from government insurance plans. Working with fellow members of Congress, he attached a rider onto an appropriations bill that kept Medicaid from covering abortion.
Over time, Congress multiplied that single rider into restrictions that keep a slew of federal government programs and agencies, including Indian Health Services and the Veterans Health Administration, from providing coverage of abortion. These restrictions, while all distinct, are commonly referred to as the Hyde Amendment — named for the man who started it all.
“I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the … Medicaid bill.”
Fast forward 40 years: the Hyde Amendment is still here. This terrible, intrusive, and unfair policy that restricts abortion access and denies millions of women of their autonomy and dignity to exercise their own health care decisions still exists. It should not have been adopted in the first place — let alone seen its 40th year.
What the Hyde Amendment Does
The Hyde Amendment:
Perpetuates abortion stigma: the unjust and untrue message that abortion is not “real” health care
Entrenches a classist belief that low-income women don’t deserve the same access or dignity as higher-income women
Disproportionately hurts low-income women, women of color, young people, immigrants, and LGBTQI communities
Why does Hyde disproportionately hurt people of color? Remember: Medicaid provides coverage to 1 in 5 women of reproductive age. Yet, due to the structural inequalities in the United States that link racism, sexism, and economic inequality, women of color disproportionately comprise the majority of Medicaid enrollees. In fact, 30% of Black women and 24% of Hispanic women are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 14% of white women.
Turning the Tide
An increasing number of people are saying “enough is enough” to Hyde. In fact, women’s health champions in Congress are leading the way on a bill that will not only end the Hyde Amendment but also require publicly supported health care programs to cover and provide for abortion.
U.S. Representative, Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), along with 70 original co-sponsors including Diana DeGette (D-CO-1), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act. The EACH Woman Act would ensure that each woman — no matter where she lives, her income level, or insurance coverage — can make her own decisions about her own pregnancy and get the care she needs without political interference.
A majority of Americans agree that a woman enrolled in Medicaid should have all her pregnancy-related health care covered by her insurance, including abortion services. Plus, a new poll shows that the majority of battleground state voters, particularly millennial voters and voters of color, support a bill that would require Medicaid to cover all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
Furious? Take Action.
Restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The policy is patently unfair.
If you’re as incensed as we are, then take action: Tell Congress that you want the Hyde Amendment to end.