- Between January 1 and July 31, there were 208 mentions of the Hyde Amendment in major print outlets in stories about 2020 Democratic candidates -- only 25 mentions provided context about its discriminatory impact.
- Of these 208 mentions, 123 of them also mentioned former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joe Biden. Other candidates were mentioned nine times or less each.
During seven months of abortion-related 2020 election coverage, major print media focused on the political clash among Democratic candidates over the Hyde Amendment, a budgetary rider preventing the use of federal funds for abortion care. Despite this media attention, most outlets largely failed to provide adequate context about the disastrous ramifications of the measure for low-income patients and other marginalized communities.
The Hyde Amendment is a rider added to government spending bills that prohibits government programs, such as Medicaid, from using federal funding to cover abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect life of the pregnant person. As a result, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately impacts low-income patients who do not have private insurance or cannot afford to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket. As Terri-Ann Thompson of the nonprofit organization Ibis Reproductive Health wrote in an op-ed for The Hill, “Most women who have an abortion are low-income, and a majority pay out-of-pocket for their care -- this unexpected and time-sensitive expense can mean forgoing food, not paying rent, or missing bills.” Thompson also explained that covering the cost of an abortion or being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term can worsen financial strain for low-income people.
Even when patients are able to access abortion care through the exceptions in the Hyde Amendment, further research by Ibis Reproductive Health found that “abortion providers face challenges filing claims with Medicaid” and that most people “who should qualify for Medicaid coverage of their abortions are unable to get that coverage.”
Media Matters examined abortion-related print coverage of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates (who qualified for the first debate) that also mentioned the Hyde Amendment in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal between January 1 and July 31 to determine how the Hyde Amendment was discussed during this time period. The amendment became a campaign issue in 2016 after advocates pressured Democratic presidential candidates to support repealing the rider. In the 2020 election cycle, the Hyde Amendment was raised again when Democratic candidates came out against it and former Vice President Joe Biden briefly stated his support for it before aligning himself with other candidates against the rider.
Of the 208 print mentions of the Hyde Amendment from January through July:
- 123 mentions discussed Biden;
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) had nine mentions;
- Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) each had five mentions;
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was mentioned three times;
- Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) were each mentioned twice; and
- Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) (who has since dropped out of the race) were each mentioned once in the context of the Hyde Amendment.
Other candidates were not mentioned in this context during the studied time period.
Additionally, only 25 of the 208 mentions provided context about the impact of the Hyde Amendment as a discriminatory policy against lower-income communities. Media Matters determined that to qualify as providing appropriate context, an article had to discuss the Hyde Amendment’s impact beyond being a general threat to reproductive rights. For example, a story from The New York Times which explained that “the Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged women and women of color” was counted for discussing specific impacts of the budgetary rider.
When discussing candidates’ stances on abortion rights and reproductive health, the impact of the Hyde Amendment cannot be overlooked. While the rider has historically been accepted among Democrats as a compromise allowing federal support for abortion in only limited instances, outlets should provide additional context about the efforts of reproductive rights groups in pushing Democrats to repeal the rider due to its discriminatory impact. However, through seven months of coverage, print outlets thus far have failed to address this issue and have instead treated the Hyde Amendment as largely an issue of optics and electoral horse race politics.
Media Matters searched the Nexis database for print articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times and searched Factiva for print articles in The Wall Street Journal between January 1 and July 31, 2019, for articles that mentioned “abortion” within 50 words of the last names of any of the following candidates: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson, or Andrew Yang. These candidates were selected based on their participation in the first Democratic primary debates. This search was then analyzed for articles that mentioned one of the following phrases related to the Hyde Amendment: “hyde,” or “federal funding,” or “federal money,” or “federal funds,” or “government funding,” or “federally funded,” or “abortion funding,” or “public funding,” or “taxpayer-financed abortion,” or “federal aid.”
This search excluded op-eds, editorials, and web-only content. For candidates, a mention of the Hyde Amendment was counted as each instance in which any candidate’s name appeared in the same paragraph as one of the identifying Hyde words or phrases.
Two coders then analyzed these mentions to determine if outlets discussed the impact of the Hyde Amendment on marginalized communities or merely referenced it as a general threat to reproductive rights.