For 35 years the Hyde Amendment has continued to prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for abortions -- except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is endangered. The Hyde Amendment must be -- and has been -- approved as a rider to the appropriations bill every year. But it is far past time to reject what President Obama characterized during the health care reform debate as the status quo. We should be demanding a roll back of the Hyde Amendment altogether. -- Lovechilde
By Jessica Arons This article was published on September 30, 2011, by the Center for American Progress
While such restrictions have some effect on all women, poor women and women of color
continue to bear the brunt of this cruel policy. Women enrolled in
Medicaid—by definition those with the fewest resources—were the first
targets of the Hyde Amendment, but two trends have converged to make
them even more likely to need an abortion and less likely to be able to
The United States now has the highest number of people living in poverty
since the Census Bureau started tracking the data in 1959. And 14.5
percent of women lived in poverty in 2010, up from 13.9 percent in
2009—the highest poverty rate for women in 17 years.
At the same time, poor women’s rates of unintended pregnancy are far
outpacing those of more affluent women. The unintended pregnancy rate
for women with incomes under the federal poverty level rose 50 percent
from 1994 to 2006, while women with incomes at or above the poverty
line saw their unintended pregnancy rate decrease by almost 30 percent.
Poor women’s unintended pregnancy rates rose regardless of their
education, race and ethnicity, marital status, or age.
And so the chasm between these two Americas continues to grow wider. A
poor woman is five times as likely as her higher-income counterpart to
have an unintended pregnancy (132 versus 24 per 1,000 women of
reproductive age), six times as likely to have a birth resulting from an
unintended pregnancy, and five times as likely to have an abortion (52 versus 9 per 1,000 women). Indeed, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of women who have an abortion are economically disadvantaged.
Put another way, abortion is becoming a poor woman’s problem—just as
more women are becoming poor. Yet because of the Hyde Amendment, a woman
who qualifies for Medicaid due to her low income is denied coverage for
abortion care. Instead, she and her family must divert scarce resources
to pay for a needed abortion out of pocket.
The Hyde Amendment’s blatant discrimination against poor women
violates the fundamental principles of fairness and equality that our
country aspires to achieve. At a time when Americans are experiencing
record rates of poverty and economic hardship, the Hyde Amendment only
compounds an already difficult situation and cuts off aid to those who
need it most.
Until the Hyde Amendment is repealed and poor women receive adequate support for all
of their reproductive health needs, rich and poor women will continue
to live in two different countries with two different sets of rights.
This 35th anniversary of Hyde is nothing to celebrate.
Jessica Arons is Director of the Women's Health and Rights Program at American Progress.