House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing Targeting Low-Income Women’s Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

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(PRESS RELEASE) Despite facing a host of other issues related to access to critical health care services, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice earlier today held a hearing which focused on two measures further restricting access to safe and legal abortion care. 

Specifically, the hearing—which was chaired by Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ)—considered the harmful and discriminatory Hyde Amendment—a decades-old federal prohibition on Medicaid and Medicare recipients using their health insurance to access safe and legal abortion care except in extremely limited circumstances. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted testimony calling upon the subcommittee and Congress to reject the Hyde Amendment and hold a hearing on H.R. 2972, the EACH Woman Act—a federal measure introduced in 2015 which would put an end to the Hyde Amendment and ensure all people have access to health insurance coverage for abortion services, no matter how much money they have, how they obtain their insurance, or where they live.  The Center also joined over 60 other leading women’s health organizations in calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment in a letter submitted to the committee yesterday. 

Today’s hearing also comes less than three months after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—the most significant abortion-related ruling from the Court in more than two decades. While the Court struck down two attacks on women’s access to abortion, the Hyde Amendment continues to keep access out of reach for low-income people.

“Yet again, politicians in Congress are wasting valuable time and resources in order to further their agenda of denying women of their rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“For too long the Hyde Amendment has discriminated against low-income women, denying them safe, legal abortion services simply because they cannot afford it.  Every woman deserves access to constitutionally-protected health care, regardless of her health insurance, how much money she makes, or where she lives.”

The hearing also considered H.R. 3504, a measure introduced by Congressman Franks which would amend the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 by adding new criminal penalties against doctors.  In addition to criminalizing physicians for providing constitutionally protected health services, H.R. 3504 also mandates vague new requirements on how physicians must care for their patients.        

The Hyde Amendment:  Dangerous and Discriminatory

The Hyde Amendment, first enacted in 1976, currently prohibits women with Medicaid and Medicare from using their coverage to pay for abortion care except in the extremely limited cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. If states wish to cover abortion beyond these narrow exceptions, they must pay the entire cost with state funds. Currently, 17 states use their own funds to cover additional abortion services for low-income women.

In response to the long-standing discriminatory bans on health care coverage for abortion, reproductive justice, health, and rights organizations launched a bold new campaign, All* Above All, to build support for lifting bans on abortion coverage that disproportionally harm low-income women and communities of color.

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