The Hyde Amendment

Before you read this, you might want to know why I am writing about the Hyde Amendment, and why you should read what I have to say.

As a young woman of reproductive age, this is a concern for me. As a woman of color, this is a concern for me. As a daughter of an immigrant, this is a concern for me. As a person who wants to be able to have control of her own life, who wants her friends and loved ones to have control of their own lives, the Hyde Amendment is a concern for me. Hyde normalizes prejudices against women and stifles reproductive rights. With its ideas rooted in discrimination, Hyde says that there is no need to support women’s choice. Hyde says that some women get more choice than others. Hyde says that women should not really have choice at all.

I want you to understand how the Hyde Amendment affects our nation and our community. I want you to join me not only in my concern, but also in my action, to repeal this discriminatory statute.

What is the Hyde Amendment?

In 1973, Roe v. Wade declared abortion a right, not just for wealthy women with the access and resources, but for all women. However, in 1976, this right was attacked by the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion services. This severely limited the ability of low-income women to lay claim to their reproductive rights, disproportionately affecting women of color, immigrant women, and young women. Since then, Hyde has continued to chip away at women’s rights to choose what is best for themselves and their families. It now additionally restricts abortion coverage for federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers, women in federal prisons and detention centers, low-income women in the District of Columbia, and Indigenous women. The Hyde Amendment builds roadblocks to reproductive justice for women already facing economic, political, and social disadvantages.

While the Hyde Amendment was deemed constitutional by a ruling that showed preference for childbirth over abortion, it remains a discriminatory policy that values some women over others. It does not place value on protecting the lives of all women and addressing their concerns surrounding their personal and familial wellbeing. The women most affected by Hyde are low-income women who may already face challenges supporting themselves and those around them. In addition to having to scramble to raise funds for abortion under the Hyde amendment, women with lower incomes already often have less access to the information and services required to prevent unplanned pregnancies. On top of this, according to a 2012 study from the University of California, San Francisco, American women who are denied abortion services face more financial strain later on than women who are able to obtain abortion services. The disrespectful, limiting policies of Hyde thus hurt women both in the short and long term.

How does the Hyde Amendment affect us here in Delaware?

In Delaware, at least 23% of women between the age of 15 and 44 are influenced by abortion coverage bans. Private insurance and ACA health exchange plans may cover abortion costs, but Medicaid cannot do so because of the Hyde Amendment.

Delaware does not place a ban on abortion coverage for public employees, although a number of states do so and prohibit private insurance coverage of abortions as well. Because of the joint federal-state nature of Medicaid, states can use their own funds to cover abortion services for those with Medicaid. Delaware does not do this, and so our state support of abortion coverage lags in comparison to 15 states who do offer state-based Medicaid coverage for abortion. These include our neighboring peer states Maryland and New Jersey in addition to states often deemed more “conservative,” such as West Virginia and Montana. Delaware is also one of the unfortunate 44 states that does not offer Medicaid coverage for abortion even in cases of fetal impairment or danger to the mother’s physical health.

How can we counteract the Hyde Amendment?

Fortunately, two federal bills have been introduced to counteract the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment and work towards reproductive justice: the EACH Woman Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act.

The EACH (Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance) Woman Act was introduced to Congress in 2015 by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO). The goal of this bill is to ensure abortion coverage for all women, regardless of income or insurance. It establishes two federal norms for reproductive health. The first is respect for a woman’s choice to make her own decisions surrounding pregnancy and substantiating this respect through coverage for all pregnancy care, including abortion. The second is banning political interference with private health insurance companies’ decisions to cover abortion services.

The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced in 2013 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep Judy Chu (D-CA) and reintroduced in 2015, aims to improve women’s access to reproductive health services by blocking states from placing many anti-choice, anti-access limitations on reproductive care. These include clinic shutdown laws that include regulations that exceed what is needed for high standards of safety and quality; restrictions on access for medication abortion in early weeks of pregnancy; state-mandated protocols, like requiring ultrasounds and waiting periods without medical reason; and abortion bans prior to viability. The Women’s Health Protection Act would prohibit these restrictions that attempt to both make abortion inaccessible and shame women seeking abortion.

You can learn more about how to support these two acts in the future and how to take action against the Hyde Amendment at All* Above All and Act for Women. This election year, we can write to current representatives and let new representatives know just how important reproductive justice is to their constituents.

With your help, we can talk about Hyde, inform others about why it matters in our home state, and fight together against it.