Today marks the 39th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision that prevents women from using federal funds for abortions unless their pregnancy is life-threatening or the result of rape or incest. Introduced by Henry Hyde, a conservative Republican congressman from Illinois, the rider was inserted into the 1976 annual appropriations bill and has been added each year since.
The Hyde Amendment specifically targets poor women because they are not allowed to use Medicaid to cover most abortions. The Kaiser Foundation reports that people of color account for 60 percent of the nonelderly Americans on Medicaid.
The Hyde Amendment also applies to other federal health insurance. Federal employees and their dependents, women in federal prisons, veterans and Native Americans who receive care via the Indian Health Service cannot use their health insurance for the procedure.
In a recent survey of close to 1,000 people conducted by the All* Above All coalition, 56 percent of respondents agreed that they would “support a bill that would require Medicaid to cover all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.” And 86 percent of those polled felt that politicians should not be allowed to deny health coverage to a woman because she is poor. This is especially poignant when another study found that women who are denied abortions are three times more likely to be living in poverty two years later than those who were able to secure services.
In July, three members of Congress introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act, which would effectively undo the Hyde Amendment and prevent private insurance companies from denying coverage for abortions. It was quickly referred to the Subcommitte on Health.