The Hyde Amendment at 35: How One Law Continues to Divide a Movement
This article is cross-posted from the National Network of Abortion Funds.
The Hyde Amendment turns 35 this month. This provision, prohibiting federal Medicaid coverage of abortion in almost all circumstances, was the beginning of the anti-abortion movement’s post- Roe, all-out effort to ban abortion. It was a gateway bill, opening the door to the flood of restrictions that today constrict a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion, forcing women to “choose” between paying for other basic necessities and having an abortion, and, in too many cases, making abortion impossible. It became the precedent for all other denials of abortion funding, and reinforces our discriminatory, two-tier health care system in which people without financial resources cannot get the care they need.
The persistence of the Hyde Amendment also created a series of disastrous roadblocks to inclusive reproductive health coverage in other legislation. For example, Congress banned abortion coverage in “The Affordable Care Act” in 2010. Compounding this specific policy loss was the profound ideological loss of normalizing the exclusion of abortion from health insurance. During the battle over health care reform, President Obama reassured those who feared that there might be an end run around Hyde by saying, “I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.”
As we mark this anniversary with our continued activism, I draw several political lessons to inform our advocacy going forward.