Viewpoint: Happy anniversary Hyde

BY CARLY MANES

Published September 28, 2014

Abortions are expensive. A first trimester abortion costs an average of $470. A second trimester abortion at 20 weeks costs an average of $1,500.

So what do you do if you can’t afford an abortion and you definitely can’t afford a baby?

If you happen to be one of the 12 million women who depend on Medicaid and other federal insurance programs, you are pretty screwed, thanks to the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment was passed Sept. 30, 1976. The Amendment bans all types of federal funding for abortion care. This funding restriction is most salient for low-income women on Medicaid. As we approach the 38th anniversary of one of the first federal restrictions on abortion access post Roe v. Wade, it’s important that we take a moment to look at and reflect upon the social impacts of the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment was crafted with the intention of creating systematic barriers for low-income women seeking abortion care, as the bill’s author, Congressman Henry Hyde, noted at the time of its introduction.

The Hyde Amendment is simply one of the many laws that systematically targets low-income women, denying them the right to self-determination and autonomy. Which in the context of Hyde, is withheld as a privilege only for wealthy women who have the money to pay out-of-pocket for abortion care. Low-income women are not only barred from abortion care due to restricted federal funding, but with the hundreds of other state and federal laws that police abortion access, women sometimes have to travel states away and wait days to access care. Between the cost of the procedure and the money spent on physically getting to a provider, abortion is less and less attainable with each passing week of pregnancy.

If federal health insurance won’t cover abortion care, and federal welfare programs certainly won’t aid in the exorbitant costs of raising a child, we leave low-income women vulnerable to the cycle of poverty that is statistically likely to consume them. In the framework of reproductive justice, forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term is wholly a violation of human rights. Reproductive rights are innately human rights, and for the more than 12 million women who depend on Medicaid and other federal programs, such as women in the military, Peace Corps, disabled women, American Indian women using Indian Health Services and federal prisoners, their human rights are being violated.

In the name of abortion rights, human rights and reproductive justice, it is time to repeal Hyde. Reproductive rights activists often focus on abortion’s legality and physical accessibility — where women can receive abortion care and how far along into a pregnancy the procedure is legal; but the fight for safe and legal abortion means nothing if it isn’t accessible to everyone. I shouldn’t have to mention that providing coverage for abortion care leads to better economic outcomes for both the women who have abortions and for the institutions that would otherwise have to provide childcare service. But, for some readers and most politicians, these nuances are what matter most for their public support of repealing Hyde. Sadly, the value of a woman’s life, autonomy and dignity aren’t always enough to influence policy. Often in a political context we see financial outcomes superseding socially just policy. Hyde is neither a socially just policy nor an economically sound one.

I currently have $342 in my savings account. If I didn’t admit that having less than $470 makes me nervous, I would be lying.

Like I said, abortions are expensive. But so is the cost of injustice.

So, happy anniversary, Hyde. Here’s to another year of classism, sexism, and broad-based discrimination lovingly provided by the United States government.

*This article refers to abortion care patients solely as women, but not all people who have abortions identify as women.

Carly Manes is a Public Policy senior.