Op-Ed: Abolish the most destructive abortion restriction ever


Three years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe vs. Wade in 1973, Congress made it much more difficult for low-income women to access the procedure by passing the Hyde Amendment, which banned federal funding of Medicaid for abortions. It was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1980 and remains in force.

In our opinion, this is the most destructive restriction on abortion ever adopted.

Finally, there is a chance to abolish it. Joe Biden is the first president in more than two decades to exclude this discriminatory provision in a federal budget proposal. Since Democrats have narrow majorities in Congress, he will need the help of brave Republicans who support abortion rights to eliminate him.

Named in honor of the opponent of abortion rights, Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois, this harsh amendment has survived by hiding behind a veneer of reasonableness. Even if you support someone’s right to choose abortion, Hyde argued, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agreed, and it’s been part of federal spending laws ever since. They turned a blind eye to the harmful and unfair effects of the amendment on low income women.

A disproportionate number of people affected by the funding ban each year are women of color: 29% of black women and 25% of Hispanic women of childbearing age were enrolled in Medicaid in 2019, compared to just 15% of white women. The lack of funding uses the power of the government scholarship to put abortion out of reach of Medicaid recipients while fully funding childbirth.

Over the years, the Hyde Amendment has provided a variety of narrow exceptions to the Medicaid funding ban – today it only pays for abortion if the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy. results from rape or incest.

The impact of the amendment is enormous. A first trimester abortion is prohibitive for women on Medicaid; the cost of the procedure is about $ 500, plus there are related expenses such as lost wages, child care and transportation.

According to our research, the Hyde Amendment inspired a wide array of copy bans that continue to deny abortion coverage in the Children’s Health Insurance program and others. federal programs which cover military personnel and veterans, Native Americans, Peace Corps volunteers, and those imprisoned or detained by the federal government.

At the state level, we found that the amendment made it politically acceptable to exclude abortion coverage from state employee insurance plans and even from insurance coverage provided by state employees. private employers. On the other hand, six states – California, Illinois, Maine, New York, Oregon and Washington – impose abortion coverage in their health insurance markets and in private health plans.

States can use their own funds to pay for abortion services if they choose, or when ordered to do so by state court decisions that grant broader reproductive rights. We’ve seen how litigation combined with strong legislative advocacy – led by black women and their allies – persuaded several states to fund abortion as part of their Medicaid programs. Today, 16 stateswhether through court order or law, allow Medicaid-eligible residents to obtain funding for all or most abortions.

But 33 states and Washington, DC, still adhere to Hyde’s strict federal standards. (South Dakota only pays for abortion in life-threatening cases.)

As more progressive women, including more women of color, were elected to Congress, the repeal of funding restrictions on abortion won more support. President Biden, who supported the Hyde Amendment during his Senate years, changed his mind by proposing a 2022 federal budget that would shut the door on him.

It is not enough to exclude Hyde from the federal budget. Proposal Equal access to abortion coverage in the health insurance law, which was recently reintroduced to Congress, must be adopted. It would ensure abortion coverage for all who receive care or insurance through the federal government and prohibit political interference in abortion coverage under private insurance plans.

At the local level, more funds are made available for abortion services and related expenses through philanthropic organizations and municipal programs that will continue to be important long after Hyde’s demise. for example, New York City has allocated more municipal dollars to fund abortions for anyone going there for care, and Austin, Texas, is providing support for women seeking abortions by funding accommodation and travel costs. .

As new health care coverage proposals are debated and considered, those who value reproductive freedom must advocate to ensure that all reproductive health services – including abortion – are an integral part. blanket. Preserving reproductive freedoms requires not only the right but the means to obtain all reproductive health, regardless of financial situation. Hyde’s harmful amendment has intimidated those who choose abortion for too long – and far too unfairly.

Kathryn Kolbert is a lawyer and co-founder of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Julie F. Kay is a human rights lawyer who has championed abortion rights internationally. They are the authors of the upcoming “Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now to Save Reproductive Freedom”.

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