Dark Day in Abortion Rights History

Anniversary of a Dark Day in Abortion Rights History

Forty years later, the Hyde Amendment still won’t go away. This Supreme Court case explains why.

By Nina Liss-Schultz and Hannah Levintova

09/30/16  Mother Jones

For decades, millions of low-income women have been prevented from getting Medicaid coverage for their abortions—a reality that disproportionately affects abortion access for women of color. The reason? The Hyde Amendment, an appropriations rider preventing the use of federal funding for most abortions. It was first passed in the House 40 years ago today.

Even in 1976, abortion rights advocates recognized that this amendment would prove detrimental to women’s reproductive health care access. Soon after its passage, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups launched a movement to circumvent Hyde by restoring Medicaid coverage for abortions through state constitutions. Today, 15 states provide public funds for abortion coverage. But efforts to repeal the federal funding ban have gained new momentum over the last year, beginning with the introduction of the EACH Woman Act in Congress in July 2015. The bill has been stuck in committee, but this summer another proposal to repeal Hyde cropped up, this time in the Democratic Party platform, a first. Hillary Clinton also announced her support for a repeal. Now, Democrats are trying to use this momentum—as well as the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down two abortion regulations in Texas—to rejuvenate debate about the country’s ban on public funding for abortions.

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