For the last 40 years, Congress has attached an amendment to almost every spending bill that prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions, except in the case of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. That means, for example, that Medicaid dollars (which go to healthcare for lower-income families) cannot be used for abortions and that while some federal dollars go to Planned Parenthood, none of that money can be used on the procedure.
The provision, known as the Hyde Amendment, has increasingly come under scrutiny as Hillary Clinton has called for its repeal, and it’s played a role in the battle over funding for Zika research as well.
The House is holding a hearing on the Hyde Amendment on Friday in which the Republican majority has assembled witnesses in support of keeping the amendment. Pro-choice advocates, meanwhile, are keeping a close eye on the hearing and using the hashtag #BeBoldEndHyde to show their support for overturning it. (You can watch the hearing here).
Tell your reps
What do you think. Tell your members in Congress whether you think they should continue to prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions or if they should do away with the Hyde Amendment.
The Hyde Amendment is a necessary addition to all spending legislation, to ensure that the federal government is not providing support for abortions. The federal government must protect Americans’ “ultimate civil right” — the right to life. And taxpayers should not have to pay for something they are morally opposed to.
The Hyde Amendment restricts the right to abortion, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court. And it disproportionately affects low-income women and women of color. One in ten women in the U.S. receives health care coverage through Medicaid (according to Planned Parenthood), which does not cover abortion services in most states because of the Hyde Amendment.
A little history
The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1976, named for then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), following the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. The 40th anniversary of the amendment’s initial passage is on Sept. 30.
The amendment has been included in basically every congressional spending bill that touches on healthcare since, as a matter of practice. Previous attempts to remove the Hyde Amendment from spending legislation have been met with fierce opposition from socially conservative members of both parties.
While the amendment prohibits Medicaid dollars from being used to fund abortions, 17 states use their own dollars to support abortion funding for Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Thirteen of those states were ordered to do so by court order.
The Democratic Platform included language calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment for the first time this year.
Bills Congress is considering
The House passed legislation last year to make the Hyde Amendment the law of the land, so it would no longer need to be tucked into certain spending bills and fought over. The No Federal Funding for Abortions Act would do exactly what its title says, in addition to prohibiting federal funds from being applied to health insurance plans that cover abortions. It would also permanently prohibit the District of Columbia from using locally generated tax revenue to offer abortion services to local low-income women. The Senate has not brought up this bill for a vote. You can read more on the bill, vote on it and tell your reps what you think about it here.
On the other side of the issue, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has introduced legislation that would require the federal government to cover abortions under Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (which covers families with children). The EACH Woman Act of 2015 would also bar the federal government and state and local governments from prohibiting, restricting, or otherwise inhibiting insurance coverage of abortion care by state or local governments, or by private health plans. And it would express the “sense of Congress” (which means it’s just a statement of opinion, rather than law) that restrictions on coverage of abortion care in the private insurance market must end. Neither the House nor the Senate has brought up this bill for a vote. You can read more on the bill, vote on it and tell your reps what you think about it here.
— Sarah Mimms
Photos via Wikimedia Commons
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