The Hyde Amendment: A Legacy of Discrimination


The Hyde Amendment has been wreaking havoc on reproductive rights for low-income women for decades, but where's the outrage?   


“I certainly 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.” 


Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) spoke these words in a 1977 congressional debate.  Hyde got his wish granted with the passage of his sponsored piece of legislation, the Hyde amendment, which has had an unfair, unjust, and destructive effect on women’s reproductive rights for over 30 years.  

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Reproductive rights have been a hot topic in the media and among women’s rights groups for a few weeks now with the passage of Title X funding cuts in the House of Representatives and the subsequent devastation it could have on Planned Parenthood (if not blocked by the senate and President). However, the Hyde amendment has been limiting reproductive rights for decades and most people in the U.S. know nothing about it. Abortion opponents view the Hyde Amendment as one of their first landmark successes. The legislation was passed in 1977 as a response to the legalization of abortion as determined by Roe vs. Wade.  It is an amendment, not a law, banning the use of federal funds to pay for abortions primarily under the Medicaid program.  It has been approved annually since its inception as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations. 


 Medicaid plays a vital role in health coverage, and specifically reproductive health care coverage for low-income women.  The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that the program provides health care coverage for more than 55 million low-income adults and children in the United States.  Since women, particularly women of color, are overrepresented in the poverty statistics they constitute the majority of beneficiaries.  Nearly 7 out of 10 beneficiaries older than age 14 are women. Approximately 7 million women, or 12% of women of reproductive age (15-44) in the United States, are enrolled in the program. In the United States, Medicaid is the largest source of federal dollars supporting family planning services and supplies.  This includes coverage of preventive services and screenings such as prescription contraceptives, pap smears, STI testing and treatment, and reproductive health counseling.


Studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute found that perhaps the most compelling and frightening impact of the Hyde Amendment is 18-35% of women who would have had an abortion had it been paid for by Medicaid instead ended up continuing their pregnancy.  The number of actual pregnancies continued is estimated to be between 64,000 and 84,000.


A constitutional right that limits access on the basis of income level cannot logically be named a right.  For many low-income women choice is limited in so many areas of their lives and is basically a luxury, why limit control over such a personal and life-changing matter as pregnancy?   Furthermore, poor low-income mothers are often characterized as abusing the welfare system by the same lawmakers who limit their right to obtain the full spectrum of family planning options.  The hypocrisy is maddening.  


Every single woman in the United States should have the constitutional right to access a safe, legal abortion.  However, we cannot in good conscience say that this is the case.  The Hyde amendment along with several other national and state policies, including provisions added to the Health Reform bill, unfairly target poor women by essentially taking away this right. The same outrage seen in the aftermath of the Title X bomb needs to be applied to the Hyde amendment.  Citizens, public interest groups, and policymakers advocating for women’s, abortion, and Medicaid rights should band together against this legislation.  I would specifically urge all women who believe in reproductive freedoms to defend the right to choose for our lower-income friends, neighbors, and sisters.  The Hyde amendment does not only threaten abortion and reproductive rights for low-income women, but for all women.  How can those of us who are more fortunate, be secure in our ability to obtain an abortion, when rights for other women are restricted unfairly?  


Rana Suliman


News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Politics

David Daleiden Brags About Discredited Smear Campaign at GOP Convention

Amy Littlefield

Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the Center for Medical Progress' anti-choice smear videos.

David Daleiden, a year after he began releasing secretly recorded and deceptively edited videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials were illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation, appeared to boast about the videos’ purported impact at a luncheon during the Republican National Convention (RNC).

“I think it’s very clear that one year later, Planned Parenthood is on the brink, they’re on the precipice,” Daleiden said at the event, co-hosted by the Family Research Council Action and the Susan B. Anthony List. “Their client numbers are down by at least 10 percent, their abortion numbers are down, their revenues are down and their clinics are closing.”

The luncheon took place at the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, near the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Republican National Convention is underway. Also in attendance at Wednesday’s luncheon were a slate of Republican anti-choice politicians, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx.

Daleiden—who is under felony indictment in Texas and the subject of lawsuits in California for his actions in filming the undercover videos—touted efforts to defund Planned Parenthood by state Republican legislators and governors, who used the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) smear videos as a basis for investigations. Those defunding attempts have been blocked by federal court order in several cases.

He celebrated Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it would close two and consolidate four health centers in Indiana, an effort Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said would “allow patients to receive affordable, quality health care with extended hours at the newly consolidated locations.” Daleiden made no mention of last month’s Supreme Court decision overturning abortion restrictions in Texas, which dealt the anti-choice movement its worst legal defeat in decades.

“One year ago now, from the release of those videos, I think it’s actually safe to say that Planned Parenthood has never been more on the defensive in their entire 100 years of history, and the pro-life movement has never been stronger,” Daleiden said.

While his tone was victorious, Daleiden appeared to avoid directly claiming credit for the supposed harm done to Planned Parenthood. In a federal racketeering lawsuit brought against Daleiden and his co-defendants, Planned Parenthood has argued that Daleiden should compensate the organization for the harm that his smear campaign caused.

Republican congressional lawmakers have held at least five hearings and as many defunding votes against Planned Parenthood in the year since the videos’ release. Not a single state or federal investigation has produced evidence of wrongdoing.

Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the CMP smear videos.