This month marks the 35th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, the federal law which bans Medicaid coverage of abortions with few exceptions. What started out as a extreme position against a woman’s right to chose has, with devastating consequence, become the default position when arguing abortion access in this country.
For starters, the ability to “chose” to cover abortions or not in the public sector became transplanted in the private sector with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
But if you place the Hyde Amendment, and its repugnant attitude toward poor women, in the context of recent census data that shows the United States with the highest number people living in poverty since 1954 and a doubling of unintended pregnancies among poor women and you have an emerging crisis.
A poor woman is five times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy than her higher-income counterpart regardless of education, race, ethnicity, marital status or age. More than two-thirds of women who have an abortion are economically disadvantaged. Four in ten children will grow up in poverty in a single-mother household.
Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, those women must divert scarce and precious resources away from supporting themselves to pay for abortion care.
Denying access to abortion doesn’t make it go away. It just makes it more expensive in addition to more dangerous. The Hyde Amendment’s blatant discrimination against poor women — simply for being poor — not only violates our core values of fairness and equality, but it demonstrates a disregard for women that can’t simply be explained away by being “uncomfortable” with abortion.
Abortion rights and access is about self-determination, the freedom from government interference in health care decisions. And for 35 years the Hyde Amendment has signaled to women that self-determination is a right afforded only to the wealthy. With the number of women sliding into poverty showing no sign of slowing, this is a reality that does not bode well for women.
Photo from infowidget via flickr.