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September 30, 2006 marked the 30th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, but it is nothing to celebrate.
Designed to limit women’s access to abortion, the Amendment and similar funding bans currently prohibit federal funds from being spent on abortion care for some of the most vulnerable women in the U.S., including poor women, women in the military, Native American women, federal prisoners, and Peace Corp volunteers, unless their life is in danger or their pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Even when a woman’s health is severely threatened by her pregnancy, no federal money may assist in ending that pregnancy to protect her future health and fertility. When a woman seeks an abortion so that she will be able to provide adequate food, shelter, and attention to the children she already has, the federal government will not help her. To make matters worse, these restrictions continue at a time when the government refuses to increase funding for and access to regular and emergency contraception, wastes money on ineffective and dangerous abstinence-only education programs, and fails to provide adequate financial support for child care to working parents.
The effects of such funding restrictions lead to troubling results. Women who want but cannot afford an abortion spend precious time gathering funds, leading to more abortions later in pregnancy. Too often, they and their families forego basic necessities such as food, rent, and electricity in order to raise the needed money. Moreover, those unable to obtain an abortion are forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will, against their conscience, and against what they feel is best for themselves and their loved ones.
Under current law, Medicaid will pay the medical bills of a woman who wants to continue her pregnancy, but not those of a woman who chooses to end her pregnancy. Although the government absolutely should assist indigent women with prenatal and delivery care, such one-sided funding often forces society’s most powerless and vulnerable women down a path they did not choose for themselves.
If the policy were reversed and the government funded abortion but not prenatal care, surely no one would defend it as fair and just. The Hyde Amendment has no place in a society that values liberty, independent thinking, and the ability of its people to make difficult life decisions for themselves. In a truly just society, rights cannot exist only for those who can afford them.
To note the anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, the Center has partnered with the National Network of Abortion Funds, an association of groups that uses privately donated money to assist women who face financial barriers to abortion. The NNAF and the Center for American Progress will present a series of five columns throughout the month of October on the Hyde Amendment and its impact.
First, Marlene Gerber Fried with the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire University will detail the history of the Hyde Amendment. Next, Sarah Horsley of NNAF will share real-life stories of women struggling to raise money for abortion care. Then, Jamie Brooks from the National Health Law Program and Patty Skuster from Ipas will provide a human rights analysis of the Hyde Amendment. Susan Jenkins, the former General Counsel of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, will discuss the obstacles to accessing childbearing services that low-income women also face. Finally, Toni Bond, the head of African American Women Evolving, will lay out what needs to be done to restore funding and improve reproductive health care for poor women, women of color, and young women.
Read the entire series:
For more information about the Hyde – 30 Years is Enough! Campaign and NNAF, please visit www.hyde30years.nnaf.org and www.nnaf.org.
Jessica Arons is the Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress.