More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, confirmed that women have the right to make their own decisions about whether to terminate a pregnancy. Just three years later, unable to ban abortion for every woman, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment on this day in 1976, restricting access to abortion for low-income women who depend on Medicaid for health insurance.
The Hyde Amendment, passed every year in Congress for the past 39 years, forces 1 in 4 poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and pushes women and their families further into poverty. Women of color are more likely to be covered by Medicaid and are therefore particularly affected by Hyde restrictions. But no matter what her income, women must be able to access insurance coverage without restrictions on abortion coverage. It is simply unconscionable that women can be denied autonomy – the ability to make her own personal decisions about her body and her health – because politicians have presumed to know what’s best. Lawmakers shouldn’t be able to play politics with women’s lives, and in this case, with the lives of low-income women, many of whom are struggling to get by.
The good news is that we can end Hyde. This July, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), together with Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2015. This bill, supported by the Feminist Majority, would end restrictions on health insurance coverage of abortion and ensure that every woman who has health insurance, regardless of where she lives or her economic status, would have coverage for abortion. This bill recognizes that women are capable of making their own decisions about their bodies and allows women to continue with their lives.
Ending the restrictions posed by the Hyde Amendment by passing the EACH Woman Act would mean an end to reproductive injustice and the beginning of recognizing every woman’s right to access abortion.