During its national convention, the Democratic Party adopted a platform explicitly calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- a long-standing budgetary rider blocking the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Here are four times media highlighted the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment and removing economic barriers to abortion access.
Clinton Leads Charge For Democratic Platform To Include Repealing The Hyde Amendment As A Top Priority
ThinkProgress: “For The First Time Ever, The Democratic Platform Includes A Call For The Repeal” Of The Hyde Amendment. ThinkProgress’ Alice Ollstein and Bryce Covert reported that the proposed Democratic Party platform was “a sharp departure from the one approved by the party in 2012. … For the first time ever, the Democratic platform calls for a repeal of a 1970s-era law that bans the government from providing any federal funding to support abortion services.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this restriction -- commonly called the Hyde Amendment after its first sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) -- was first passed as a budgetary rider “to the fiscal 1977 Medicaid appropriation.” Every year since, “the Hyde Amendment has been reenacted” to prevent the use of Medicaid funds from subsidizing abortion services, except in case of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother. As Ollstein and Covert concluded: “Striking down the law would allow women to use Medicaid funds to pay for abortion care.” [Think Progress, 7/5/16; ACLU, Accessed July 2016]
New York Magazine: Hillary Clinton Decided “To Publicly Do Battle Against Hyde” During Election “Vocally And Without Apology.” In a January 18 article for New York magazine Rebecca Traister argued that Hillary Clinton’s decision to “publicly do battle against Hyde” before becoming her party’s nominee was significant. Furthermore, Traister wrote, Clinton’s commitment to advocating for a repeal of Hyde “vocally and without apology” marked a turning point because “despite a strong record of supporting reproductive rights, [she] has not always spoken about them with righteous vigor.” Traister suggested that by drawing attention to “the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality, [Clinton] dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion.” From New York magazine:
But as too few people seemed to have noticed, Hillary Clinton has spent the past ten days campaigning vocally and without apology against the Hyde Amendment. Hyde, a legislative rider first passed in 1976 and added to appropriations bills every year since, prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, which means that the low-income women, many of them women of color, who rely on Medicaid for health insurance cannot use their insurance to terminate their pregnancies except in cases of rape, incest, or their life being in danger.
It is a discriminatory law that perpetuates both economic and racial inequality. And the notion of repealing it has remained a third rail in American politics until about five minutes ago … or, more precisely, until this summer, when California representative Barbara Lee introduced the EACH Woman Act, which would effectively repeal Hyde. So far, the bill has 109 co-sponsors but a vanishingly small chance of going anywhere.
Which is what makes it so notable that Hillary Clinton — who, despite a strong record of supporting reproductive rights, has not always spoken about them with righteous vigor (her 2005 discussion of abortion as a “sad, tragic choice for many” enraged many activists) — has decided to publicly do battle against Hyde. Even more important, she is explaining her stance in terms that offer a crucial and long-awaited corrective to the course of the abortion debate in America.
If you’ve followed Democratic politics for the past couple of decades, Clinton’s full-throated expressions might well have left your jaw on the floor. For years, conventional wisdom has led mainstream Democrats, including Clinton herself, to tread around abortion on cat’s paws, often referring to the procedure euphemistically or as a kind of necessary evil. This distance and distaste, the unwillingness to defend abortion on moral grounds, has only reinforced the belief that an embrace of reproductive rights is a risky move and allowed uninterested pundits (many of them male) to calmly sideline the ever-more-restricted rights of women as a sideshow, as some subsidiary “single issue,” as a part of the “culture wars.”
Clinton, in her lengthy, thorough statements about the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality, dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion. It would be difficult to overstate how radical it is to hear a mainstream politician address the inability of women to make reproductive choices about their bodies and lives as an economic issue, central to class and racial discrimination in America. Yet no one at any of the four official Democratic debates has asked Clinton about her remarkable amplification of feminist argument. [New York magazine, 1/18/16]
Four Times Media Highlighted The Importance Of Repealing The Hyde Amendment During This Election Cycle
1. Rewire: New Study Finds “United States Was One Of Only Ten Countries” With Legal Abortion That Bans “Federal Funding For Abortion Care.” In a July 22 article for Rewire, Nicole Knight Shine discussed the findings of a new study from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), which evaluated public funding of legal abortion care in countries where abortion is legal. Knight Shine wrote that the United States was “one of only ten countries” in the survey that limit “federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment” while 31 out of 40 “high-income” countries surveyed covered the costs of abortion either in part or full. As Knight Shine explained, the gap between available state funds and a patient’s financial assistance needs not only “delays abortion care for some people with limited means” but in some cases drives women to self-induce abortions. As a remedy, the study’s authors “call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.” From Rewire:
A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.
Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.
“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” [study lead author Dr. Daniel] Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”
Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason. [Rewire, 7/22/16]
2. The Guardian: The Hyde Amendment “Is One Of The Biggest Barriers To Abortion Left Standing.” In a July 26 article, Guardian senior reporter Molly Redden explained that the Democratic platform’s commitment to explicitly repealing Hyde was significant because the restriction is “one of the biggest barriers to abortion left standing.” She wrote that “the loudest calls for the repeal of Hyde … originated with groups such as the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health [NLIRH] and SisterSong” -- all of which specifically represent women of color. As the director of NLIRH, Jessica Gonzales-Rojas, explained, “Women of color leaders have been calling for the repeal of Hyde for decades.’” From The Guardian:
The announcement made Clinton one of the only modern presidential candidates to oppose the nearly 40-year-old ban on federal abortion coverage. And this week, the rest of her party will follow suit. In what is the first significant shift to the party line on abortion in decades, Democrats will approve a platform at the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia that explicitly calls for elected officials to overturn Hyde.
But in a sharp departure from how abortion issues normally percolate, the loudest calls for the repeal of Hyde did not originate with groups such as Planned Parenthood or Naral Pro-Choice America – groups that have set the agenda for abortion rights supporters for decades. Instead, the calls originated with groups such as the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and SisterSong.
“Women of color leaders have been calling for the repeal of Hyde for decades when most mainstream reproductive rights groups did not prioritize this issue,” said Jessica González-Rojas, director of the National Latina Institute and an All Above All co-chair.
The result is a movement that overtly fuses one of the modern Democratic party’s most established positions – support for abortion rights – with the interests of the activists who increasingly represent the demographic future of the party.
The target is substantial. Hyde is one of the biggest barriers to abortion left standing, after the supreme court in June struck down health restrictions with no basis in evidence. [The Guardian, 7/26/16]
3. Slate: Repealing Hyde Is A “Long-Overdue Step Toward Addressing The Intersection Between Economic Insecurity And Reproductive Health.” During the primary season, Slate’s Christina Cauterucci highlighted Clinton’s focus on reducing economic barriers to abortion access after accepting “Planned Parenthood’s first-ever presidential primary endorsement.” Clinton said that abortion is not accessible enough “as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.” Cauterucci concluded that if Clinton succeeded in making the repeal of Hyde a central issue in the campaign, it would be “a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health.” From Slate:
If Clinton makes the Hyde Amendment a 2016 campaign issue, it will be a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health. Studies show that poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to secure an abortion, in part because she needs time to come up with the money. But the further along the fetus, the more expensive her abortion will be and the more likely she is to experience health complications. Hyde has influenced new health programs, too. Poor women have long been used as poker chips in political debates over abortion, and lawmakers have used their power to stymie women’s health care access as a way to prove their anti-choice chops. “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman,” amendment namesake Henry Hyde said in a 1977 discussion on Medicaid funding. “Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the…Medicaid bill.” [Slate, 1/11/16]
4. Salon: “The Effects Of The Hyde Amendment Have Been Devastating” For Low-Income Families And Servicewomen. On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2. Following this “resounding victory for the reproductive rights movement,” Salon’s Amanda Marcotte named the repeal of the Hyde Amendment as one of the next major goals for pro-choice advocates. According to Marcotte, “the effects of the Hyde Amendment have been devastating” for both low-income families and servicewomen. Because Hyde is a restriction on federal funding, “no federal employees, service women, veterans or women on Medicaid have access to coverage for abortion.”As a result of Hyde, “One out of four women on Medicaid who wants an abortion simply isn’t able to get one, resulting in forced childbirth.” From Salon:
The effects of the Hyde Amendment have been devastating. One out of four women on Medicaid who wants an abortion simply isn’t able to get one, resulting in forced childbirth. Of those women who do get an abortion, raising the money often results in major hardship for the family. The $300-$500 that an abortion costs pinches a middle-class budget, but for those who live in poverty, that often means having to sell things off, borrow money from relatives, or choose between getting the abortion and other life necessities. Women on Medicaid often delay the abortion at least 2-3 weeks in order to raise the money.
Servicewomen face many of the same barriers, with the additional problem of often being unable to even see a doctor who offers abortion, since military hospitals are barred from doing them. Research shows that many of these women consider unsafe black market methods.
Repealing the Hyde Amendment would go a long way towards making sure that every woman, no matter her job or income, can get an abortion is she needs one. [Salon, 6/27/16]
And Experts Agree That The Hyde Amendment Has Negative Consequences For Abortion Access And Disproportionately Affects Women Of Color
National Women’s Law Center: The Hyde Amendment Forces Low-Income Women To “Postpone Paying For Other Basic Needs … In Order To Save The Money Needed For An Abortion.” In a July 21, 2015 report, the National Women’s Law Center explained that the Hyde Amendment puts low-income persons at a substantial financial disadvantage in obtaining abortions, and it says that “because of the high cost of the procedure, low-income women are often forced to delay obtaining an abortion,” which increases the out of pocket costs:
The Hyde Amendment Creates Economic Barriers and Health Concerns for Low-Income Women
Low-income women denied abortion coverage under the Hyde Amendment may have to postpone paying for other basic needs like food, rent, heating, and utilities in order to save the money needed for an abortion. Moreover, because of the high cost of the procedure, low-income women are often forced to delay obtaining an abortion because they need time to raise the money. In one study, more than one-third of women that had an abortion in the second trimester stated that they would have preferred to have the procedure earlier but could not because they needed to raise money. The greater the delay in obtaining an abortion, the more expensive the procedure becomes, catching poor women in a vicious cycle. In a 2011 study, women paid an average of $397 for a first trimester abortion but $854 for a second trimester abortion.
Other women may be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, which could harm their future well-being. For example, one study showed that one year after attempting to obtain an abortion, women denied an abortion were more likely to live below the federal poverty level and receive public assistance than those who received an abortion. Being forced to forego an abortion could push more women and their families closer to poverty and others deeper into the poverty they endure.
The Hyde Amendment Particularly Burdens Women of Color
Restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion disproportionately affect women of color. In 2012, 20 percent of Medicaid enrollees were African-American, 29 percent were Hispanic, and 9 percent were Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Aleutian or Eskimo.
African-American and Latina women are more likely than White women to rely on Medicaid for coverage of family planning services, and they are also more likely than White women to face financial barriers when seeking abortions. Furthermore, women of color are more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, due to racial, ethnic, gender, and economic healthcare inequalities. [National Women’s Law Center, 7/21/15]
Guttmacher Institute: “The Number Of Women Potentially Affected By The Hyde Amendment Is Substantial.” On July 14, the Guttmacher Institute released a report detailing the devastating impact of the Hyde Amendment and advocating for its repeal. According to Guttmacher’s director of public policy, Heather Boonstra, “The number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services. She wrote that for women between 15 and 33 who depend on Medicaid, “60% live in the 35 states and the District of Columbia that do not cover abortion, except in limited circumstances.” As a result, “roughly seven million women” are potentially impacted by Hyde’s restrictions on federal funding for abortion care. She concluded that due to the wide-reaching negative effects of the Hyde Amendment, the fight to repeal it “is and should be the heart of the abortion rights struggle in this country”:
The number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial. Of women aged 15–44 enrolled in Medicaid, 60% live in the 35 states and the District of Columbia that do not cover abortion, except in limited circumstances.17 This amounts to roughly seven million women of reproductive age, including 3.4 million who are living below the federal poverty level.
The Hyde Amendment falls particularly hard on women of color. Because of social and economic inequality linked to racism and discrimination, women of color are disproportionately likely to be insured by the Medicaid program: Thirty percent of black women and 24% of Hispanic women aged 15–44 are enrolled in Medicaid, compared with 14% of white women.
The proactive campaigns to heighten attention and call for action to cover abortion care under health insurance—especially for low-income women on Medicaid—seem to be gaining some traction among candidates who support abortion rights. Increasingly, more seem comfortable talking about the issue and fighting for reform. With a new administration and Congress taking office next year, and elections in all 50 states too, advocates are hopeful about rebuilding support—however long it takes—toward achieving true access to abortion care for low-income women, regardless of the state in which they live. This is and should be the heart of the abortion rights struggle in this country. [Guttmacher Institute, 7/14/16]