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Anti-abortion amendment being challenged

Published Mar 8, 2007 9:08 PM

“Hyde—30 Years is Enough! Fund Abortion! Protect Dignity and Justice for All Women!” is the clarion call to action as well as the name of a campaign being launched by the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF).

This new national struggle aims to overturn the reactionary 1977 Hyde Amendment that denied women on Medicaid the right to funding for abortions.

Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, signed the Hyde Amendment into law after Congress passed it in 1976. Named for its ultra-reactionary sponsor, Henry Hyde, former long-term Republican senator from Illinois, the amendment has undergone several revisions over the years and now includes limited Medicaid funding for abortions in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. It is renewed yearly as part of federal budget appropriations.

Before the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid covered over one-third of all abortions for women in the U.S., but since 1977 it has paid for virtually none. Coverage for abortion is also denied to women military personnel and their dependents, to women receiving Indian Health Services care and to people on disability insurance. (www.hyde30years.nnaf.org)

In a system where medical care is a commodity and over 45 million people have no health insurance, access to health care, especially reproductive health care including abortion, is a major factor in women’s right to choose. As always, the most severely affected are low-income women, women of color and young women. The cost of a first trimester abortion can be higher than what a poverty-level family struggles to live on in a month.

According to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, currently “32 states ban use of Medicaid funds for abortions and only provide public funding in limited cases of life endangerment, rape and incest. 17 states provide public funding for all or most medically necessary abortions; 4 out of the 17 states provide Medicaid coverage for abortion voluntarily and the remaining 13 provide Medicaid coverage by court order.” (www.LatinaInstitute.org)

Restrictive federal laws mean that immigrant women are usually denied abortion coverage, even in states where Medicaid pays for abortion.

A fact sheet on reproductive health from African-American Women Evolving (AAWE) in Chicago states: “The Hyde Amendment is a key strategy of those who seek to ban abortion and regulate women’s bodies by blocking women’s access to reproductive self-determination. ... Black women are three times as likely as white women to have an abortion and also represent a large percentage of women living under the poverty line. They must use already limited resources that would otherwise be used for basic living necessities to obtain an abortion. ... [D]enying access is discriminatory. The reality is that women with the least access to health care are those with the fewest economic resources who are disproportionately women of color. The right to have an abortion is a constitutional right, and rights can only be realized through access.” (www.aaweonline.org)

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, in a 2005 National Funding fact sheet, states: “The Hyde Amendment has directly affected low-income Latinas’ access to safe, legal abortions. In fact, Rosie Jiménez, a Latina college student who was unable to pay for a legal abortion, became the first woman to die from a back alley abortion after the passage of the Hyde Amendment. Latinas have been especially affected by the Hyde Amendment because many low-income Latinas rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage.”

The “30 Years Is Enough!” campaign defines the fight for women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. as a struggle for the rights of low-income, nationally-oppressed and working-class women. The initiative needs all pro-choice, women’s rights and anti-racism organizations united to overturn the Hyde Amendment to help lay the basis for a long-awaited movement counter-offensive against decades of right-wing attacks on women.

Go to www.hyde30years.nnaf.org for more information and to add your group as a participating organization. A petition to overturn Hyde can be downloaded from www.mecawi.org in the “DANFORR” section.