Center Releases Report of Hyde’s Real-life Stories, Finds Policy “Just Wrong”
Today, members of the House of Representatives joined the Center for Reproductive Rights in releasing a new report documenting the real-life impact of the Hyde Amendment on poor women. Hyde prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion except under limited circumstances. During the healthcare debate, the amendment was represented as sound policy and as the accepted standard for laws around public funding for abortion. But through the stories of women adversely affected by Hyde, Whose Choice? How the Hyde Amendment Harms Poor Women refutes that position.“Hyde may have played politically during the healthcare debate, but our report illustrates that in the real world, it’s just wrong,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Women enroll in Medicaid because they can’t afford most healthcare, including abortion services. Hyde not only cruelly targets poor women, it forces reproductive choices on them and that’s a violation of their basic rights.” The Center, joined by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), unveiled the report at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The research comes as Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) circulates a bill seeking to codify Hyde and create a host of punishing new tax penalties designed to make coverage of abortion services unavailable in private insurance policies. The Center’s report concludes that funding restrictions deprive women of the ability to do what’s best for their health, themselves and their families. They saddle women with additional financial hardship, cause unreasonable delays in their access to abortion and ultimately, interfere with their ability to decide the appropriate choices for their own personal circumstances. “One of the primary obstacles to equal access to healthcare for women, the Hyde Amendment, is something policymakers have become used to, but that I simply cannot and will not accept,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). “It treats poor women differently than women of means, placing the dignity of being able to make their most personal choice about their body and their family out of reach. I hope that soon we can offer all women, regardless of wealth or social status, the equal opportunity afforded by the Constitution.””In case there was still any doubt, this report demonstrates clearly that the Hyde Amendment has had a destructive impact on a woman’s right to make her own health decisions,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). “Access to healthcare is a universal human right, and low-income women in America are more likely to be at a disadvantage when it comes to paying for abortions. The healthcare legislation did not improve on this unfortunate reality.”The research is a snapshot of the harm inflicted by Hyde and centers around a group of poor women from across the country who sought an abortion within the last twelve months. Some narratives in the report read as follows (names are changed to pseudonyms to protect women’s identities):
- C.M., a 26-year-old single mother from Georgia and Iraq war vet, recently broke up with the father of her six-year-old son, after trying to make it work. She had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after her tour in Iraq and on top of the financial strain and absence of a partner, she did not feel she was emotionally ready to care for another child. With a monthly income of $1700 and bills totaling $800-$900, it took her six weeks and several cancelled appointments to save the money for an abortion. By the time she had saved the money and postponed paying several bills, she had to have a second-trimester procedure and the abortion cost her $1500.
- R.D., a 27-year-old mother of two who lives in Kentucky works part-time at a non-profit that advocates for businesses and goes to school full-time to get her associates degree. Last year, she found out that she was pregnant shortly after breaking up with the man she’d been in a relationship with for eight years and who is father of her children. She and her ex decided that financially they couldn’t take care of another child. At the time, she was only making $300 every two weeks and all of her financial aid went towards her tuition. She was enrolled in Medicaid and receiving food stamps. She couldn’t even afford the initial $200 visit to Planned Parenthood. So was forced to schedule and cancel several appointments as she raised the necessary funds. By the time she saved enough money, her pregnancy was in the second-trimester and she had to have a more involved 2-day procedure. At that point, she was lucky enough to connect with a few funding organizations like the National Network of Abortion Funds, that could help her pay for the abortion which ended up costing $900.
- T.S., a 38-year-old married mother of two from Pennsylvania, worked full-time for a state-funded mental health association and was taking the birth control pill when she learned that she was pregnant. At the time, she was working on furlough and not receiving any income. Her husband wasn’t able to work because he’d smashed his kneecap in a work-related injury and was fighting to get disability insurance because he was told that he had maxed out. He worked in landscaping, plowing and snow removal. Their household annual income was $25,000. The couple decided that their marriage was already suffering from the financial strain and another child would not be affordable. Making $12 an hour at her job, T.S. could not afford the $422 abortion, but did receive assistance from funding organizations.