The Hyde Amendment withholds federal Medicaid funding from abortion, except in the extremely narrow and dire circumstances when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the life of the woman, or when the pregnancy results from rape or incest.
Under the Hyde Amendment, federal Medicaid coverage cannot extend to abortion even when a woman’s health is at risk and her doctor recommends she obtain an abortion to preserve her health.
Hyde Hurts Low-Income Women
The Hyde Amendment is nothing more than an intrusive and unfair restriction on insurance coverage for millions of low-income women and their families, and it is an example of politicians interfering with a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions. Consider these facts:
- Nationally, Medicaid provides coverage to one in 10 women.
- Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of adult Medicaid enrollees are women of reproductive age.
- Over 12.5 million women (age 19 to 64) have Medicaid coverage.
- If every state expands its Medicaid program, as the Affordable Care Act allows, roughly 4.6 million additional women will be newly eligible for Medicaid coverage.
- Simply put, the Hyde Amendment makes it less possible for a low-income woman to access her health care options. Policies that limit access to abortion have a disproportionate impact on low-income women.
When a woman cannot afford to end a pregnancy, she may forgo basic necessities, and as a result, may end up shutting off her own heat and electricity to pay for her abortion. She may even resort to self-inducing an abortion or obtaining an unsafe, illegal abortion from an untrained or unlicensed practitioner.
Interfering with Health Care Decisions
Decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child should be left to a woman, with the counsel of her family, doctor, and faith. But in order for a woman to be able to make a real decision based on what is best for her circumstances, she needs to be able to access and afford the care she needs. When insurance coverage provides for all pregnancy-related care except abortion, it interferes with private health decisions that are best left to a woman and her family.
It is unfair that a woman be denied coverage of abortion simply because she has government-funded health insurance. Each woman – no matter the size of her wallet or what kind of insurance coverage she has – should be able to access the full-range of reproductive health care, including abortion, from a licensed, quality health care provider.
Hyde in the States
Whereas the Hyde Amendment bans state use of federal Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions (with the limited exceptions noted above), it does not impact a state’s ability to use its state funds to cover abortion. To date, 17 states use their state dollars to extend health coverage to low-income women enrolled in Medicaid to ensure that they have access to a full range of health care services, including abortion.
However, that leaves dozens of states that follow the standard Hyde set. Notably, South Dakota’s Medicaid program goes even further than Hyde: It does not pay for abortion even when a woman has been raped or is the victim of incest — a clear violation of federal law, which includes these exceptions. Moreover, Congress can control DC’s funding and has restricted DC from using its own funds to provide abortion coverage to low-income women.