Hyde Amendment is bad policy (and unpopular too!)

In statements quoted in Anti-abortion group pressuring Kaine, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, perpetuates harmful myths about the Hyde Amendment, an annual budget policy rider that denies insurance coverage for abortion to women who receive their health care coverage from the government.

It’s time to get the facts straight. The reality is, voters oppose the 40-year-old policy. A poll from Hart Research Associates shows 86 percent of voters agree that “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.” People of all ages and political stripes share this view: 90 percent of voters ages 18 to 34, 84 percent of voters 65 and over, 79 percent of Republicans, and 94 percent of Democrats all agree.

Voters are not fooled and won’t be misled into supporting policies that threaten women’s health. Building on the momentum of the recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, women of color of all ages are mobilizing across the country to take down the harshest remaining barrier to abortion access, namely the Hyde Amendment, and our movement is growing every day. 

But being unpopular is far from the worst thing about the Hyde Amendment. As a Black woman, I’m dismayed whenever Hyde’s proponents hide behind dubious polling and refuse to talk about what matters most of all: the impact of this policy on the lives of women.

Bans on abortion coverage push abortion out of reach of women based solely on their income, and can have devastating effects on a family’s economic stability. Restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, and a woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get the care she needs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, abortion coverage bans disproportionately impact communities who already face barriers to quality health care, including Black women. Low-income women, women of color, young women, immigrant women, and transgender and gender-nonconforming people bear the brunt of these policies. A recent analysis found more than half of the women denied coverage because of the Hyde Amendment are women of color.

Black women need our leaders to expand access to quality, affordable reproductive health care, support sexual and reproductive health education, and address the national crisis of maternal mortality. What we don’t need is politicians taking away our decisions just because of how much money we make or where we live.

When it comes to abortion, we trust Black women, all women, to make the important personal decisions that are best for themselves and their families.

However anyone feels about abortion, every woman, whether she has private or public insurance, should have access to the full range of quality reproductive health care, including abortion. Certainly a woman’s access to safe and constitutionally-protected health care shouldn’t depend on the personal views of politicians in Congress.

This piece originally appeared in The Hill.