? DeGette: Ending the Hyde Amendment

Author: Jared Wright - October 26, 2016 - Updated: October 23, 2016

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette

Recently there’s been a groundswell of support for legislation to right a four-decade wrong: a restriction using federal funds for women’s health care that has predominantly hurt the underprivileged.

This ban, known as the Hyde Amendment, prohibits federal funds in Medicaid and other health programs from being used for abortions.

Now the restriction stops this coverage for all federal employees, military personnel, Peace Corps volunteers, Native Americans on federal insurance and inmates in federal prisons.

Politicians have inserted this provision into law year after year. They did it again in the stopgap spending bill that keeps the lights on in Washington until mid-December. And when Congress returns to Washington the week after the elections, they’re planning once again to renew the prohibition for another year.

The impact of this annual assault on women’s constitutionally-protected rights is clear: A woman who seeks an abortion but can’t have one because she can’t afford it is more likely to fall on even harder times, deepening the cycle of poverty.

Just think about what that does to individuals and families across this country. Put yourself in the shoes of a poor and frightened young woman who’s forced to carry to term an unintended pregnancy because of the prohibitive cost of an abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, one in four women on Medicaid who seek abortions are placed in that position.

Now just imagine what impact that unfair burden has on families, on communities — on our society as a whole.

Medicaid provides care to millions of women of reproductive age and serves as their lifeline.  Women of color — Latina and African American — are more likely to use public insurance programs such as Medicaid to get care.

We can’t know these women’s circumstances. We don’t know their finances. What we do know is that every woman should be able to access every option available to her when making a personal decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy. This is her right — a right affirmed by the United States Supreme Court as guaranteed under the Constitution.

As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said, “The decision of whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, her well-being and her dignity.” Looking at laws that keep disadvantaged people from having access to abortion, Justice Ginsberg has noted: “That we have one law for women of means and another for poor women is not a satisfactory solution.”

This is why I’m an original co-sponsor of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, also known as the EACH Woman Act. This bill, which 125 House members support, would overturn the Hyde Amendment once and for all.

The legislation has the support of dozens of organizations, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, the Alliance for Justice and many more.

Ending the Hyde Amendment has become a topic of interest in the presidential campaign, so perhaps that will give it more momentum. With enough support, it may be an idea whose time has finally come.

Jared Wright

Jared Wright

Jared Wright runs the business side of Colorado Politics, including circulation, advertising and marketing. He started as CEO and Publisher of the Statesman in 2015 and served as editor-in-chief for the journal during part of that time. He has worked in politics at both the state and federal levels, serving on a U.S. Congressman’s staff and working in government affairs in the private sector. Wright was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2012 and served as member of Colorado’s 69th General Assembly from 2013-2014. He is also a writer, photographer and cartoonist.