The Public Funding Debate: If We Don't Fight the Hyde Amendment, We Will Lose Everything
Sunday was the kind of anniversary you wish you didn't have to celebrate: specifically, the 36th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, one of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in recent history. It restricts the use of federal funds for abortion services, meaning that people on publicly-funded insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare (the low-income and the disabled) have to pay for abortion services out of pocket. The vast majority of the women affected by this ban are low-income, and if you are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, you aren't likely to be able to shell out anywhere from $300 to $3000 for an abortion procedure.
But, of course, that was exactly the point of the Hyde Amendment. "I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill," said Henry Hyde, author of the amendment.
Unfortunately, though, it seems that we often forget this intention, and somehow decide that it's okay to equivocate on this issue. Efforts to repeal the Hyde amendment are more often than not seen as unrealistic, and advocates work instead to maintain the status quo -- low-income women denied access to abortion. Often the argument is that if we try and fight the public funding battle, we might lose ground in overall access to abortion. But I think that the exact opposite is true. If we don't fight the public funding debate, we're going to lose altogether.
The reason is that the public funding debate is simply a slippery slope toward outlawing abortion (and now even birth control) altogether.