Ending the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner
Since news broke of the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’ve seen headline after headline declaring the end of Roe v. Wade. Most certainly, we have reached an inflection point, as we face one of the most consequential Supreme Court nominations, with implications for health care, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, the right to legal abortion and so many other fights for justice and liberation.
If Trump gets his way with this appointment, many states will be allowed to outlaw abortion completely, which would hit low-income people hardest. One need only looks at the Hyde Amendment to understand the consequences of pushing abortion out of reach — and to wake up to the fact that for many, living without meaningful access to abortion is already a reality.
The harmful legacy of the Hyde Amendment began 44 years ago this month when Congressman Henry Hyde first introduced the policy to deny insurance coverage for abortion for people enrolled in Medicaid. Since then, Hyde’s tentacles have reached into other federal health programs, denying coverage for federal employees, Native and Indigenous communities, and women in federal detention. Today, 34 states and Washington D.C. also deny insurance coverage through their own Medicaid health insurance programs.
For decades, people who are already marginalized by our healthcare system — who are more likely to be women of color, young people, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks — have borne the brunt of Hyde. Specifically, when politicians place restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortion, they force one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. People who are denied an abortion are more likely to be pushed deeper into poverty or entrapped in abusive relationships.
It may seem like the crises we face today — a pandemic, health care inequities, and racist police violence — are isolated from Hyde, but the truth is, they’re inseparable. Hyde, state-sanctioned police violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic all disproportionately harm people struggling to get by, especially Black and brown folks. All are rooted in systemic racism that denies the humanity of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and denies them the ability to thrive in their communities.
Today, a majority of national voters believe that Medicaid should cover the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. And that support grows among voters in battleground districts, Black voters, Latino voters, and millennials.
The EACH Woman Act — a groundbreaking bill that ensures each of us can get our health insurance — can get abortion coverage — is 207 co-sponsors strong in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. This year, our champions in Congress, led by U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee and Ayanna Pressley, fought tirelessly to strip Hyde from the federal spending bill. Last year, Maine and Illinois passed state laws to cover abortion. Local elected officials in Austin, Texas, and New York City, for the second year in a row, have stepped up to dedicate local funding to support people seeking abortion care.
Right now, health care coverage for all is essential to racial justice — and that coverage must include abortion, especially now, as the pandemic impacts many people’s family planning decisions. When we support access to the full range of reproductive health care, including birth control, maternity care, and abortion care, we start to put a dent in patriarchy and systemic racism. We start to put a dent in the systems of economic oppression that have rendered abortion care a privilege rather than the human right it is.
The fact is, the Hyde Amendment’s number has been up, and women of color have long known it. We have been rising to end this policy that has targeted our communities and many others marginalized by our health system. We’ve shouted loudest these past four years, as the administration’s agenda of shame and punishment has pushed abortion care further out of reach. That agenda is colliding with a global pandemic, uprising for racial justice, and now the prospect of a solidly anti-abortion Supreme Court. It has never been more clear: ending Hyde can no longer be a backburner issue — it is essential.
As the Hyde Amendment reminds us, the right to legal abortion has never been enough, especially for communities of color. As we face the threat of an even further dismantling of abortion access, women of color are meeting this moment with bold action and unity. We are stepping into our power unapologetically, and we are demanding control of our bodies, lives, and futures — including ending Hyde.
Destiny Lopez is the co-director of All* Above All, which unites organizations and individuals, including 130 partner organizations, to build support for lifting bans that deny abortion coverage, including the Hyde Amendment.
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