About a year ago, I began researching a report for the Center for Reproductive Rights on the damaging impact of the Hyde Amendment. Hyde has blocked federal Medicaid funding for abortions for 34 years, which has prevented more than a million poor women from exercising their reproductive rights.
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The Center wanted to get the real stories of women affected by Hyde so we joined with the National Network of Abortion Funds to interview women across the country personally affected by this dangerous policy.
Today, we’ve released the report, WHOSE CHOICE? How the Hyde Amendment Harms Poor Women, and a short video laying out 34 years of Hyde’s negative impact on women.
One story in the report is from a disabled veteran of the Iraq war struggling as a single mother. While trying to raise the necessary funds, she was forced to delay her abortion for more than six weeks and had to cancel several appointments — all while the cost of the procedure continued to increase.
Another is about a mother of three who lost her job while pregnant, and said she knew she “couldn’t afford a baby” given her financial circumstances but had “mixed feelings” about getting an abortion. In addition to borrowing money from her sisters and receiving assistance from an abortion fund, she had to delay paying some of her bills in order to pay for her abortion.
These stories of financial and emotional hardship are heartbreaking. Moreover, even women who should qualify for an abortion under Hyde’s very limited exceptions often struggle to obtain coverage and are denied funding.
This is only a snapshot of the harm inflicted by Hyde, which will likely be expanded if anti-choice members of Congress have their way. Right now, a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is quietly circulating through Congress seeking to permanently ban all federal funding for abortions. But that’s not where it stops. The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” also effectively eliminates abortion coverage in the private insurance market nationwide and could undermine women’s access to life-saving emergency abortions at state and local public hospitals.
This bill already has more than 170 co-sponsors and is picking up traction in the House. We need to stop its progress immediately. You can help us put the brakes on the “No Tax Payer Funding for Abortion Act” by writing your Members of Congress today.
After working on this report, I can’t help but be personally affected by the terrible toll Hyde has taken on women and families. Too many have been made to suffer from this unjust, coercive, and discriminatory policy. But the stories in this report are also testimony to women’s survival, ingenuity, and bravery. They remind us that a woman will do everything she can to make a choice that is right for her and her family.
Karen Leiter is the Human Rights Researcher in the US Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. She has more than 15 years of experience working in the US and internationally as a researcher, advocate, educator and policy analyst in the field of health and human rights.