This week, we observed the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the milestone U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it possible for millions of women to get the abortions they need without risk to their lives and health. Unfortunately, just three years after Roe, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the woman. As Justice Thurgood Marshall noted in his dissent, “denial of a Medicaid-funded abortion is equivalent to the denial of legal abortion altogether.”
This year, we honor Roe with another important milestone – a campaign to abolish the inequity created by the Hyde Amendment and extend Roe‘s promise to all women. The Hyde – 30 Years is Enough! Campaign, a national coalition of more than 60 organizations, calls on Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment and restore coverage of abortion for low-income women. “Women must have the power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their families - it’s a matter of dignity and justice,” said Stephanie Poggi, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which coordinates the Hyde – 30 Years is Enough! Campaign. The Campaign has grassroots support across the country, gathering more than 12,000 petition signatures in the past three months. Activists are bringing the petitions to Congress this week to deliver our message that indeed, 30 years is enough!
The Hyde Amendment was the first major erosion of the rights gained through Roe and it spurred other national and state restrictions on abortion. Thirty-three states have enacted funding bans and Congress has severely restricted abortion funding in virtually every federal program, including health programs for military personnel and their families, disabled women and women receiving care from Indian Health Services.
The Hyde Amendment makes reproductive decisions privileges instead of rights. Before the legislation, Medicaid paid for nearly one-third of all abortions. Since the Amendment was enacted, federal Medicaid has paid for less than one percent. The impact has been devastating on the more than 12 million women - especially those who are young, immigrants and women of color - who are dependent on Medicaid and other federal programs. Due to racial inequalities in health care access and the racial distribution of poverty, women of color disproportionately rely on Medicaid and therefore bear the brunt of these restrictive policies.
Because of the Hyde Amendment, poor women seeking abortions are forced to use money needed for food, rent and other necessities. The average cost of a first trimester abortion ($430) can be more than half of what a poverty-level family lives on in a month. Some women find it impossible to raise the necessary funds. In a country truly dedicated to equality, securing healthcare should not rest on a woman’s economic status.
In addition to being denied funding for abortion, poor women who want to have children face additional discriminatory and punitive policies. So-called “welfare reform” legislation contains many provisions constraining their reproductive options, such as welfare caps that prohibit increased payments to women who have children while receiving assistance. The absence of decently paying jobs, education and childcare further undermine the ability of poor women, immigrant women and women of color to have and care for the children they want.
Women of color have also also faced systematic legal and policy efforts aimed at restricting their ability to have children. Until the 1970s, coercive sterilization was routine in public hospitals for any woman who was deemed “unfit” to be a mother. While the Hyde Amendment removes abortion as an option, the federal Medicaid program has continued to pay about 90% of the cost of sterilization, making it the more feasible option for women who can afford neither an abortion nor another child.
Join the Hyde – 30 Years is Enough! Campaign in calling for full public funding of abortion as a part of comprehensive health care and economic justice for all. Circulate and sign the petition. Advocate for your state to fund abortion services using its own Medicaid money. It is time for all of us to unequivocally state that we have had enough of all policies that are destructive to the lives and health of women and their families.
The Hyde – 30 Years is Enough! Coalition includes groups working on reproductive rights, health care access, social justice and human rights. The full list of participating organizations and activities can be found at www.hyde30years.nnaf.org
The National Network of Abortion Funds is a coalition of more than 100 community-based groups in 42 states that offer financial assistance to low-income women seeking abortions. Each year, member groups of the Network raise over $2.6 million and help more than 23,000 women and girls nationwide, but we cannot meet the enormous gap created by the Hyde Amendment.