Hyde Turns 40, But Are We Near Its End?

It has been nearly 44 years since abortion became legal in all 50 states. For almost all of that time, the Hyde Amendment has been in place, reaffirmed year after year, burdening and often blocking the poor from accessing a legal abortion by forbidding Medicaid insurance from covering the procedure.

But on Friday, September 30, as Hyde reaches its 40th anniversary, there is a strong possibility that it could have been renewed for the last time.

“I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill,” Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde testified at the original hearing.

In the four decades that followed, Hyde had his wish. According to anti-abortion activists, the Hyde Amendment is responsible for over 2 million births by pregnant people who did not want to continue the pregnancy, and is currently forcing 60,000 people a year to remain pregnant and give birth despite their desire to have an abortion – all people who are too poor to pay for a termination on their own.

While abortion opponents appear to see forcing the poor to remain pregnant and give birth against their will to be a victory, abortion rights activists have long emphasized that as Hyde impacts the poor, it also disproportionately impacts people of color, too.

“Ending Hyde is about restoring dignity and fair treatment to poor women and women of color,” writes Destiny Lopez, co-director of the All Above All Fund, which is dedicated to ending Hyde. “It’s about making sure a woman who’s made the profound decision to end her pregnancy gets the care she needs without having to turn her life upside down. It’s about compassion and respect.”

This year is going to be the tipping point of the Hyde Amendment, one way or another. For the first time, Hyde has become a campaign platform plank for both parties’ presidential nominees. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has vowed to end the yearly addition of the Hyde Amendment to the federal budget once she is elected. Meanwhile, in an effort to woo social conservatives who were leery of his campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump has promised to make Hyde’s ban on Medicaid funding for abortions permanent.

Democratic politicians are determined not to let that happen.

“Make no mistake, the Hyde Amendment directly targets low-income women and women of color. It’s original sponsor proudly said as much on the House floor. Politicians should not be spending their time trying to make life, particularly access to health care, even more difficult for these women. Politicians have no place in a woman’s personal health care decisions,” writes California Rep. Barbara Lee, who has become the public face of the campaign to end Hyde and regain the abortion rights that have been stripped from so many in the last five years of state restrictions. “We know that restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. These women and other women denied an abortion are more likely to fall into poverty than those who received care.”

We also know that pregnant people in poverty will go to astounding lengths to try to find the funds to obtain an abortion when their insurance cannot cover it. From opening new credit cards to skipping bills to pawning or selling furniture or personal items to trying to float rent without being evicted in an attempt to pay for an early abortion, they may be forced to put their own safety and that of their families at risk in order to not continue an unwanted pregnancy.

If the difference between presidential candidates was not already stark enough, their stances on the Hyde Amendment certainly make it clear. One nominee believes that the right to not remain pregnant shouldn’t be determined by a person’s personal wealth. The other wants to permanently ensure that those who are poor have to either remain pregnant against their will, fall further into poverty to get a legal abortion, or seek out an illegal and potentially unsafe termination.

Voting on Election Day won’t just put a new president in the White House – it could also end Hyde for good.

Photo credit: Robin Marty

75 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

This should NEVER have passed!

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Tania N.
Tania N1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Donn M.
.1 years ago

Oh please Rhoberta, have you never heard of child support? Men are forced to pay ridiculous sums for their children, but they have no say in protecting their children from murderous women.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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william Miller
william Miller1 years ago

thanks

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Sam Dyson
Past Member 1 years ago

TY

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Elaine W.
Past Member 1 years ago

I will vote for Hillary. If you do not want an abortion, no one will force you to have one.

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Rhoberta E.
Rhoberta E1 years ago

@ Donn M
Do you suppose the lazy, apathetic or ignorant MEN take ANY responsibility? Last time I knew, immaculate conception was a myth !! ( Your post is PATHETIC)

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