Today the Hyde Amendment, which bans Medicaid coverage of abortion with few exceptions, turns 35 years old. Not even its sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), could have imagined its unfortunate success. In its three and a half decades, the Hyde Amendment policy has crept into every government-run or government-managed program, including Medicare, the Indian Health Service, the Peace Corps, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the military’s Tricare program, and federal prisons. And with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, restrictions on abortion coverage crossed from the public into the private health insurance market as well.
While such restrictions have some effect on all women, poor women and women of color continue to bear the brunt of this cruel policy. Women enrolled in Medicaid—by definition those with the fewest resources—were the first targets of the Hyde Amendment, but two trends have converged to make them even more likely to need an abortion and less likely to be able to afford one.
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