Commentary Abortion

Thirty-Five Years After Hyde, It’s Time to Start a New Conversation on Abortion

Debra Hauser

On this, the 35th anniversary of Hyde, I invite you to share your own story. Share it through the 1 in 3 Campaign or just with a few people in your own social circle. Share my story, or one from the other women who have courageously contributed to this campaign.

Published in collaboration with Advocates for Youth.

Find all of our coverage on the Hyde Amendment at 35 here.

One in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, but we almost never talk about it. Not really. We may talk about abortion as a “political issue,” but too often we remain silent about our own personal experiences.

Yet, many of us have become increasingly frustrated by the onslaught of legislative and cultural attacks on abortion access. With feigned concern for our health and safety, social conservatives continue to throw every conceivable obstacle in the path of women seeking a legal, safe abortion in America. And, they are winning in many places.

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Of course, attacks on abortion rights are not new. Representative Henry Hyde planted the flag of opposition to women’s reproductive health, rights, and justice over 35 years ago with the congressional law that bears his name. The Hyde amendment all but eliminates the use of federal funds for abortion, erecting a discriminatory barrier to safe and affordable abortion care for poor women.

Targeting only needy women, the Hyde Amendment lacks as much in logic as it does in compassion. As one young mother I recently spoke with said — if I couldn’t scrape together the $300 I needed for the abortion, why do they think I can afford to raise another child?

And so, for 35 years, anti-choice politicians have held poor women hostage in their unrelenting campaign to eliminate abortion access in America, arrogantly inserting themselves in a medical decision that is best left to a woman and her family. Abortion remains at the epicenter of the culture wars with Hyde being one of the biggest anti-choice trophies to date.

When it comes to women’s reproductive health, political expediency trumps political principle: even President Obama reaffirmed the Hyde amendment, calling the restriction “longstanding” and “the status quo,” when he signed an executive order asserting that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would not allow the use of federal funds for abortion services.

Yet, a majority of Americans still supports safe, legal abortion. So why does the opposition grab all of the headlines? Because they have deftly deployed a weapon that for too long has silenced our voices, and that weapon is stigma.

Four decades of anti-abortion rhetoric has made it almost impossible to speak up about our abortion experiences. Yet one in three of us has a story to tell.

On this, the 35th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, it is time that those of us who have experienced abortion find our voices and share our stories. Here is mine.

I decided to tell my story as part of the 1 in 3 Campaign, a new initiative launched by Advocates for Youth, Choice USA, and Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom to destigmatize women’s experiences with abortion and to reclaim our shared history.

Truthfully, I didn’t ever expect to share my story so publicly. It wasn’t an easy decision to do so, but I felt compelled to do something.

Once I began telling my story, I found that other people — some of whom I have known for years — began sharing their own stories in return. What we found was a shared history — that came with support — not judgment. In sharing our stories we began to splinter the stigma that had kept us silent.

On this, the 35th anniversary of Hyde, I invite you to share your own story. Share it through the 1 in 3 Campaign or just with a few people in your own social circle. Share my story, or one from the other women who have courageously contributed to this campaign.

Clearly it is time to shatter our silence by starting a new dialogue — this time on our own terms. It is time that we raise our voices together for women of all ages and walks of life so we can put an end to the harmful and discriminatory restrictions that violate women’s rights to basic health care services.

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