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Congressional Democrats Campaign to Prove Hyde Amendment’s ‘Undue Burden’

Christine Grimaldi

Democrats have been increasingly proactive in attacks on the Hyde Amendment. The 2016 Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing Hyde, though the process for undoing the yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

House Pro-Choice Caucus leaders hope their recent call for a federal inquiry into abortion care restrictions reveal the “undue burden” on people with low incomes and people of color.

Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the co-chairs of the caucus, called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the impact of such restrictions, particularly on Medicaid beneficiaries barred from using their plans to cover abortion care under the Hyde Amendment.

There’s no doubt, DeGette said, that Hyde constitutes the “undue burden” that the U.S. Supreme Court cited this year in striking Texas abortion restrictions pushed through the state’s Republican-held legislature.

DeGette hopes the latest Pro-Choice Caucus effort will upend anti-choice talking points about prohibiting public funding for abortion care and “how that’s really hampering the ability of lower-income women to get the full range of heath-care services that they need.”

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“The results, they can help us in our further legislative and also administrative efforts to ensure that women have access to reproductive health care,” she told Rewire in an interview. Though the GAO request focuses on abortion, DeGette’s concern extended to other anti-choice myths that could impede access to common forms of contraceptives mischaracterized as so-called abortifacients.

A GAO spokesperson confirmed receipt of the request. The agency has yet to determine the full scope of what will be covered and could not provide Rewire with an estimated completion date.

Democrats have been increasingly proactive in attacks on the Hyde Amendment. The 2016 Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing Hyde, though the process for undoing the yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear. On Capitol Hill, 122 Democrats and counting have signed onto the EACH Woman Act, which would ensure that all people have access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), two of the bill’s original co-sponsors, slammed Hyde during an All* Above All call that brought together reproductive health and justice advocates in advance of the amendment’s 40th anniversary.

Lee thanked her colleagues for “getting out there to make sure that we have a bill that allows people to really rally around the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.”

DeGette pledged to couple ongoing educational efforts with “our steadfast opposition to any expansion of restrictions on a woman’s right to a full range of health care, including abortion.”

“And then after the election, we’re going to continue to push these pieces of legislation,” she said.

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