What’s so bad about the Hyde Amendment? Unconstitutional discrimination.
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Since the inception of the Hyde Amendment it has served as a racist, classist, and oppressive barrier to reproductive healthcare that we have been told to accept as status quo. It’s been long enough, and abortion funds are a critical base in the All* Above All coalition efforts to repeal this harmful, devastating piece of legislation. Repealing the Hyde Amendment will bring pivotal, tangible change for many people living and working in the United States. Everyone should have comprehensive health insurance coverage no matter how they get their insurance. Our government needs to stop obstructing taxpayers who need abortions through their federal insurance.
Congress first passed the Hyde Amendment in 1976, cruelly stripping coverage for abortion care away from people who relied on federal Medicaid. The amendment originally went into effect in 1977 and every year, for 42 years, lawmakers have consistently upheld it with each budget passed. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment. They were wrong. The Hyde Amendment clearly violates the constitutional rights of people on Medicaid.
This amendment is particularly unjust and harmful because it discriminates against people with low incomes, people with disabilities, Native Americans, military personnel, and the incarcerated. Denying abortion coverage creates a major expenditure, not just for people struggling to pay for rent and groceries, but for anyone who needs care.
Marlene Gerber Fried, the president of the National Network of Abortion Funds when the organization was founded 25 years ago, made sure that removing the Hyde Amendment was core to the organization’s mission from the beginning:
“It was a gateway bill, opening the door to the flood of restrictions which today constrict a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion, forcing women to ‘choose’ between paying for other basic necessities and having an abortion, and, in too many cases, making abortion impossible. It became the precedent for all other denials of abortion funding, and reinforces our discriminatory, two-tier health care system in which people without financial resources cannot get the care they need.”
Nearly 40 years later, there are approximately 65 million people enrolled in Medicaid, and 42 percent of people having abortions are low-income. Shockingly, only four states have voluntarily decided to use their funds to cover abortion. Another 13 states were ordered by courts to treat coverage for abortion like any other form of healthcare. The rest do not provide coverage for abortion at all. A dozen other laws now prevent federal healthcare programs from covering abortion for federal employees, people in the military and Peace Corps, disabled people, indigenous people using Indian Health Services, and federal prisoners. Combined with the thousands of other federal and state restrictions, the Hyde Amendment has decimated abortion access for marginalized communities.
In September 2018, the Hyde Amendment will enter its 41st year of blocking access to abortion care from people who need and deserve it. As beloved abortion provider Dr. George Tiller wrote, “This battle is about the self-determination of women over the direction and course of their lives. Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams. Abortion is a matter of survival.”
Today, 1 in 4 low-income women are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term and far too many people have to wait later than they want in their pregnancy to access abortion due to inability to afford the abortion care they want as early as in pregnancy as they want it. Abortion is the only medical procedure in history to have been banned from Medicaid. If the federal government fails to end the Hyde Amendment, abortion funds will call upon their state legislators to make sure abortion care is covered by Medicaid.
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds gets to the heart of why the Hyde Amendment and related bans are such a crucial issue:
“Abortion coverage bans prevent anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives. The passionate, relentless, on the ground work of member abortion funds, their communities, allies, and those seeking abortions are essential to why Hyde is part of the political conversation today.
Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. There is far too much violence, racism and misogyny fueling the policies that impact our lives, and we need to hold our legislators accountable to the standards of justice and equality that we set. Our political problems are rooted in a cultural legacy that MUST change. It would give a huge boost of faith to know that finally our legislators are listening after 41 years. Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”
Abortion funds in all regions of the U.S. are speaking out against Hyde.
“As we look ahead in anticipation of an intensified struggle for legal access to care, we resolve to continue to work and fight for what’s right. Kentucky Health Justice Network will continue to stand with, and offer support to community members who are most impacted by laws like Hyde, as well as newer legal restrictions and other assaults on boldly autonomy and empowerment for families and individuals. Kentuckians already face excessive barriers to care, and we know first hand that we are adaptable and resilient on our own, and even stronger together. Until Hyde is gone, and with it the oppressive powers that continue to restrict access, we will be here, standing strong and fighting with everyone who deserves to access the care they need with dignity and support.”
Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama:
“Yellowhammer Fund provides funding to callers seeking care at one of Alabama’s three abortion clinics. In Alabama, laws regulating abortion purposefully attempt to make care inaccessible by mandating 48-hour waiting periods, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, and biased counseling. We assert that this is part of a pattern of violence directed at poor Alabamians’ healthcare access.
“Making basic healthcare inaccessible to the poor is a hallmark of the last decade of Alabama politics. The Hyde Amendment and other state abortion regulations make access to abortion prohibitively expensive. Because Alabama never expanded Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act, the lack of federal Medicaid dollars in the state has caused the ongoing closures of many rural hospitals and healthcare centers. Meanwhile, the state is currently trying to kick more people off of Medicaid by proposing part time work requirements for Medicaid access that would make those who fulfill them income-ineligible for Medicaid. It is conditions like this that made the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights declare that poor Alabamians in 2018 have some of the worst living conditions in the developed world.
“Our mission is to create a society in which reproductive decisions are made free from coercion, shame, or state interference, a society in which individuals and communities have autonomy in making healthy choices regarding their bodies and their futures. We believe that access to abortion shouldn’t be determined by a person’s socioeconomic status, and that every person in Alabama deserves the ability to create the family that’s best for them when it’s best for them. In order to ensure this basic right, the Hyde Amendment must be repealed as part of efforts to make sure every Alabamian has the high quality, low-cost healthcare they need to thrive.”
Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Program (WRRAP), a national fund:
“No woman should ever be denied her right to a safe and legal medical procedure just because she cannot afford it. Low income women suffer greatly from the restrictions at their state level. WRRAP, a national fund, sees first hand how the laws hurt them. Women must travel, driving up the cost and putting the procedure out of reach. Being poor should not be a punishment and should never take away their constitutional protection. #ENDHYDENOW!”
Elicia Gonzales, Executive Director of Women’s Medical Fund in Pennsylvania:
“We have always known that the Hyde Amendment, and any attack on abortion, is really an attack on poor women. Given who poverty disproportionately impacts, we know that attacks on abortion are also a way to oppress Black and Brown and other marginalized folks. The PA Abortion Control Act, like the Hyde Amendment, is violent – it brings harm to folks who call our Help Line and are already struggling to make ends meet on less than $8,000 a year. Without insurance coverage for abortion, families are forced to decide between paying their utility bills, putting food on the table, and accessing the care they need. We at the Women’s Medical Fund will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our community to fight for every person to have access to abortion, have the right to have children, and have the right to raise their families in healthy communities. We will not rest.”
“At the Abortion Fund of Arizona, we do our best to help bridge the barriers between access and abortion care for our patients. In our state, a person faces various different obstacles in their journey to obtain an abortion, including but not limited to a legally mandated 24 hour waiting period, a required ultrasound along with a series of invasive personal questions about their choices and reasons for seeking basic healthcare. Additionally, telemedicine is illegal in this state for abortion care. This means that a large percentage of our patients must travel to get the care they need. There are only a very small handful of clinics that are able to provide the care these patients need, and all but two (Flagstaff & Tucson) exist in the capital city of Phoenix, which can be over a 200 mile journey for some patients.
“As if these restrictions were not burden enough, the Hyde Amendment allows for Arizona to restrict all federal funding for abortion care limiting access even further for patients. Many of the people who seek out abortion care already struggle to support the families they already have, and the fact that their public health insurance is allowed to deny them the right to take care of a hugely important aspect of their healthcare can be not only overwhelming but devastating for many people. Now, in addition to having to worry about travel costs, time missed from work, child care, and lodging, patients must confront the fact that their own state government has elected to not support their access to basic healthcare, creating yet another barrier for them to confront as the price tag for this basic health service is not cheap. The Hyde Amendment hurts every person who could get pregnant in Arizona, but it particularly targets those who the state should be supporting the most, including but not limited to, low income patients and communities of color. Hyde allows for Arizona to force patients to pay out of pocket for a basic healthcare service that is a basic human right, and a choice by our government that directly affects the choice and right of a person to bodily autonomy and power.”
Maine’s abortion fund, SAFE (Safe Abortions for Everyone):
“Maine is one of 34 states that has not elected to (or been forced by court order to) use its own state Medicaid dollars to fund abortion. Therefore, the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal Medicaid funding of abortion is the final word on abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients in Maine (and also for military personnel, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers, Medicare recipients of reproductive age, and Native Americans covered under the Indian Health Service living in Maine).
“Maine has only four abortion providers, meaning that patients from more rural areas have to drive up to three hours to reach a clinic. This introduces barriers to service including missing work, finding lodging near the clinic, securing childcare, exercising discretion where safety from a partner or others is a concern, etc. These barriers exist on top of the cost barriers that are present for low-income people who must pay out of pocket for their abortion procedures.
“As of 2016, 253,000 low-income Maine residents (19.2% of the state’s population) were covered by Maine’s version of Medicaid, MaineCare. Repealing the Hyde Amendment would expand safe abortion coverage to those MaineCare recipients who experience unwanted pregnancies or wanted pregnancies that must end for any number of difficult and private reasons.”
Jeryl Hayes, president of DC Abortion Fund:
“People are already facing too many barriers to accessing abortion care, and the type of insurance you have shouldn’t be one of them. The Hyde Amendment means that people with public insurance are unfairly restricted in being able to access the health care they need. We should be working to increase access to health care, including abortion care. Abortion care is health care!”
Gateway Women’s Access Fund, Missouri:
“At Gateway Women’s Access Fund in Missouri, we fight against the Hyde Amendment and abortion coverage bans because we deserve better representation from our legislators, especially when it comes to health coverage, including abortion. In our state, it’s not possible to purchase private insurance to cover abortion care. Missouri also hasn’t expanded Medicaid under the ACA. When seeking an abortion, Missourians are required to receive trans-vaginal ultrasounds and state mandated scripted “information” that is not medically accurate 3 days (72 hours) before they can access care. These barriers serve no medical purpose and are only in place to punish women and reduce access to care. Many of the people seeking abortions that we support express outrage and confusion as to why our legislators are standing between us and access to necessary medical care. It’s time to end Hyde, but in the meantime, states like Missouri need to show up for our rights by making sure abortion is covered in public and private insurance.”