House Democrats reintroduced a bill Thursday that would reverse the Hyde Amendment, a provision that bans federal funding for most abortions.
The Hyde Amendment also restricts the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion care. Once seen as untouchable, the provision has increasingly become a target for reproductive rights advocates who hope to expand abortion access after last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The bill is called the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act.
“The Hyde Amendment disproportionately impacts and restricts low-income people, primarily Black and brown communities, from accessing the full range of reproductive health services that they should be afforded. So it’s discriminatory and racist,” Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California who was among the representatives who introduced the bill, told USA TODAY.
The bill faces an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled House.
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What is the Hyde Amendment
Since it was passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has affected abortion access for people under Medicaid and Medicare programs, federal employees and their dependents, Native American and Indigenous people who use Indian Health Services, military members, and people in federal prisons and detention centers, according to All Above All, a national abortion rights organization.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia do not cover abortion within their state Medicaid programs, except for limited exceptions, according to the group.
The bill, introduced by Lee and reps Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., would ensure that anyone who receives health care or insurance through the federal government is able to also have coverage for abortion services.
Lee said she was a congressional staff member in the 1970s when the Hyde Amendment was first introduced.
“I knew immediately then that this was going to harm primarily low-income, Black and brown women,” she said.
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‘One important piece of the abortion access puzzle’
By denying people insurance coverage for abortions, the Hyde Amendment forces them to pay for care out of their own pockets or carry the pregnancy to term, Morgan Hopkins, president of All Above All, told USA TODAY. These financial barriers disproportionately affect people from marginalized communities who already face obstacles to reproductive care, she said.
“Insurance coverage for abortion is one important piece of the abortion access puzzle,” she said.
For Lee, the fight for abortion access is personal. Lee said she had an abortion as a teenage girl, before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
“I know the fear that people have,” she said. “I know personally the trauma and the horrible moments that I experienced.”
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Oriaku Njoku, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said abortion funds see firsthand how people struggle to access abortion care as a result of the Hyde Amendment. The bill “brings us one step closer toward ensuring that people have accessible abortion care no matter their walk of life,” Njoku said in a statement.
Bill has been reintroduced before
Since its founding in 2013, much of All Above All’s focus has been targeting the Hyde Amendment, building on the work of reproductive justice leaders, especially Black women, who have talked about the harms of the provision for decades, Hopkins said.
The Hyde Amendment was often seen as untouchable, Hopkins said. As a result, the EACH Act, despite being reintroduced for the fifth time, “continues to be groundbreaking as a piece of federal proactive abortion policy.”
Alison Dreith, director of strategic partnerships at the abortion fund Midwest Access Coalition, praised efforts to target the Hyde Amendment in an interview with USA TODAY this month. She said targeting the Hyde Amendment was once unthinkable and rarely considered by legacy abortion access organizations.
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Contact Christine Fernando at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.