Former Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, architect of the Hyde Amendment, died today at age 83.
As NPR's Julie Rovner reported, Hyde was a freshman member of the minority party when he offered an amendment to ban federal funding for abortion in June 1976 (it became law a year later). "It forced every member of Congress to take a position on the issue," said Douglas Johnson, of the National Right to Life Committee. "It lead to the development of the question of human life, of respect for human life."
Hyde argued to keep the ban on abortion even in case of rape or incest. But, five years later, when faced with the choice to include a rape or incest exception or lose the ban altogether under President Clinton, he made the pragmatic choice to allow the exception.
Heeding calls from pro-choice advocates to end the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, House Democrats introduced comprehensive legislation to ensure every woman has equal access to insurance coverage of abortion.
Members of Congress for the first time are pushing comprehensive legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care, regardless of which state she lives in, what type of insurance she has, or whether she can afford the procedure.
On Wednesday morning, three Democratic congresswomen, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO), introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or the EACH Woman Act.
The new bill, which has 70 co-sponsors in the House, would ensure that anyone who has health care or health insurance through the federal government also has coverage of abortion care.
The bill would keep states from restricting insurance coverage of abortion and would repeal laws in 25 states that prohibit private insurers, both within and beyond the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), from covering abortion.
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The bill would also lift restrictions on abortion funding for low-income women in the District of Columbia.
Many state-level restrictions on abortion insurance coverage have passed in the past five years as part of an unprecedented wave of anti-choice legislation. The ACA allows states to restrict abortion coverage within their borders, and it requires any plans that cover abortion to collect those funds separately from other premiums. The EACH Woman Act would repeal these restrictions in the ACA.
Pro-choice advocates and Democratic co-sponsors of the EACH Woman Act said the bill would put a stop to the Hyde Amendment, which they said has discriminated for decades against the most vulnerable women who are least able to afford either an abortion or a new child.
“It’s past time for all women to be treated equally, regardless of her income, the color of her skin, or where she lives,” said Lee, the bill’s lead sponsor, at a press conference Wednesday.
“Latinas and other women of color are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy and less likely to pay for an abortion out of pocket,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Enough is enough.”
The federal government has withheld funds for most abortions since 1976, when the Hyde Amendment was first introduced. The amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, has been added as a rider to must-pass spending bills every year since then.
Rep. Henry Hyde, the amendment’s author, said at the time that he would 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,” which restricts access only for low-income women and disproportionately for women of color.
Research also shows that Hyde’s exceptions for rape often don’t work as intended.
The new pro-choice bill would affect millions of women who receive health coverage through the federal government, including the one in six women who are enrolled in Medicaid; about one million female federal employees; women in the military or in the Peace Corps; young women under age 19 who are insured through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Native American women covered under Indian Health Services; and women covered under these programs through a spouse or a parent.
“It’s past time to be bold. It’s past time to repeal Hyde,” Lee said. “This decision to restrict a woman’s right is a choice Congress makes each and every year.”
While the spread of Hyde Amendment language into other bills on human trafficking or Medicare has caused recent controversy, most Democrats have come to see Hyde as an inevitable restriction that is too politically toxic to oppose.
All Above All, a coalition of advocacy organizations, has pushed back against this conventional wisdom and urged Democratic legislators to start actively working to end the Hyde Amendment.
Standing alongside coalition members at the Wednesday press conference, Schakowsky thanked advocates for helping pro-choice members of Congress “feel bold and supported and on the winning side of this issue,” after too many years of having “acquiesced” to demands from Republicans to attach anti-choice riders to must-pass spending bills.
“I can’t tell you how great it feels to be on offense on the issue of reproductive health care,” Schakowsky said.
Conservative legislators and advocates often argue that Americans oppose “taxpayer-funded abortions,” but new polling suggests the opposite.
A survey conducted by Hart Research Associates found that more than half (56 percent) of voters would support legislation like the EACH Woman Act that would require Medicaid to cover all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
Three in four voters, including 62 percent of Republicans, agreed that “as long as abortion is legal, the amount of money a woman has or does not have should not prevent her from being able to have an abortion.”
Advocates for reproductive choice in communities of color praised the legislation Wednesday.
“The EACH Woman Act puts the power back in the hands of Black women, in varying financial and life situations, and gives options that best suit their families’ needs,” Michelle Batchelor, national director for In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, said in a statement.
“Many Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women already face cultural and linguistic barriers to accessing health care,” Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said in a statement. “With over one million AAPI women living in poverty, a number that has grown over the past several years, Medicaid coverage for the full range of reproductive health services is more crucial than ever for our community.”
“I talk to Latinas every day who live with the injustice of coverage bans,” González-Rojas said. “We are ready to do what it takes to make Hyde history.”
How to Celebrate 38 Years of Roe v Wade (or Women Are People, Too)
Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of Roe vs Wade becoming law of land. And it is still being debated as if the Supreme Court had not ruled and as if it were still up to states and the US legislatures to take away a woman's basic right to own her body.
Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of Roe vs Wade becoming law of land. And it is still being debated as if the Supreme Court had not ruled and as if it were still up to states and the US legislatures to take away a woman’s basic right to own her body. The day will be commemorated with a weekend of anti-abortion marches, vigils against Planned Parenthood, targeting the few abortion providers we have, and a host of events designed to promote the anti-abortion, anti-reproductive rights forces. The shrill voices of the anti-abortion movement are drowning out the pr0-choice, women’s rights voices.
On January 18, ABC News reported that Randall Terry plans to run against President Obama next year. His campaign, beginning with that great political event–The Super Bowl–will attempt to run very graphic anti-abortion ads. It is up to all of us to write CBS and demand that they reject this type of ad. We all remember the infamous failure of costuming that led to a nano section boob exposure and the outcry. Surely, showing graphic pictures would fall into a category of not belonging on tv?
NPR‘s Julie Rovner reports that Speaker Boehner claims, “A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land.” The Congress that was elected to work foremost on jobs is now focusing on its real agenda. First, the symbolic vote on repeal of the “job-killing health care” bill. Note, no new legislation was introduced to replace this. They also broke their own rules of showing where the Constitution allows this and how the repeal reduces the deficit. According to the neutral Congressional Budget Office, the current bill reduces the deficit. Oh, well, rules are for everyone else, not those who wrote them.
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Next is the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion bill, dubbed “Stupak on Steroids” by NARAL. In a detailed article on RHReality, Jessica Aron debunks the Chris Smith bill. Simply put, the anti-abortion Congressional members have already written restrictive language into the health care law. Led by Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA), the House passed a bill that re-affirmed the Hyde Amendment which bans taxpayer funding of abortions; the Stupak-Pitts amendment was even more restrictive than current law. Thanks to Senators Boxer (D-CA) and Murray (D-WA) this amendment was not included in the Senate version and a compromise was reached. Now, Rep. Smith is trying to enact even more restrictions making almost impossible for a woman to have insurance coverage for abortions. In fact, it will be almost impossible for many women to have access to health care and could impact how the government aids women’s health. According to Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and a prominent anti-abortion supporter, this bill will strip out subsidies that are available to lower income women. He questions how far Republicans will go. He is referring to the elimination of tax benefits for insurance policies that cover abortion — even abortions in most cases of medical necessity. This bill will pass the House, it might garner some real support in the Senate. This bill must fail.
On a day when women should celebrate the decision to end government control of their bodies by the Supreme Court 38 years ago, it is a day of reckoning and a day of resolve. It is a day when women must once again dedicate themselves to ensuring that reproductive rights remain that. The decision is a woman’s and not the state’s. The irony is that the Republican Party, which is so against government mandates, government control and the government coming between a doctor and a patient, are in favor of imposing government controls regulating the actions and behavior of women. They use these arguments to oppose the health care law, but are determined to implement them against women. One of the top priorities of the Republican Party is to dismantle women’s rights. Abortion is only the first step and the biggest one.
What can you do to celebrate this day? Email your Congressional leaders to vote against the Smith bill, HR 3 No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion. Donate to JAC to enable us to advocate for women on the Hill and to work against this bill. Join an organization and make your voice heard, go to a rally, help at a local clinic, write letters to the editors, sign petitions, join JAC or another group in Washington, spread the word among your friends and family – in short, get involved. Women ARE people, too – and it is time to remind the country of that.