Did Their Backs Hurt Your Knives?

For the first-time ever, the platform of a major political party includes an explicit call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a federal law that has denied eligible poor and low-income women coverage for abortion care for nearly four decades.  This has anti-abortion democrats saying they have been betrayed.

Make no mistake: the real betrayal came, 40 years ago when politicians hijacked the Medicaid bill – a law designed to make health care accessible to those who can least afford it – and turned into a vehicle to prevent as many women as possible from obtaining abortions. 

As the law’s sponsor and namesake, Henry Hyde, explained in 1977, “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the Medicaid bill.”

According to Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the anti-abortion organization the National Right to Life Committee, in the past 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has more than lived up to its promise. Johnson recently bragged that “The Hyde Amendment is the most successful abortion reduction program,” estimating that it has blocked as many as 2 million women from obtaining abortions.

Indeed, in the more than three decades since Hyde became law, multiple states followed suit with copycat bans, blocking eligible women seeking abortions from receiving both state and federal Medicaid dollars. Today, 32 states and the District of Columbia exclude abortion coverage from otherwise comprehensive benefits programs. (Seventeen states, however, provide abortion coverage with state funds; four states did so voluntarily and 13 did so when their state courts determined that the exclusion of abortion coverage violated their state constitutions).

The ACLU has proudly been a part of many of those lawsuits to restore coverage and we are currently suing in Maine and Alaska (where the State has recently appealed our victory in the lower court) to ensure that a Medicaid-qualified woman in those states can use her insurance to get an abortion if she needs one.

Public insurance bans are government-imposed barriers to abortion access, that make it difficult or impossible for women to obtain abortions. The old mantra “no taxpayer funding for abortion” is not neutral, it’s tired. There is nothing “neutral” about providing comprehensive coverage for pregnancy-related care when a woman continues her pregnancy, but not when she decides to have an abortion. There is nothing “neutral” about a law that targets a woman with the least resources and deliberately coerces her into continuing a pregnancy against her will.

The millions of women who are coerced into continuing a pregnancy against their will, or who are forced to make difficult and painful decisions about giving up the essentials (like food, rent, or heat) for themselves and their families, just to save enough money to have an abortion have been and continue to be betrayed.

Withholding the benefits we provide as a nation from the people who qualify for them and need them is dangerous and wrong.  So, yes, there was a betrayal. But it is low-income women who have been betrayed, not anti-abortion democrats. 

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Bill Bojanowski

There is a sizeable portion of our country that considers abortion to be murder, and is against its legalization under any circumstances. Another 20-30% that consider it okay only in limited circumstances. Those circumstances are probably allowed under the Hyde Amendment. Considering such a large percentage of the population has serious moral problems with this issue, I see nothing wrong with the Hyde Amendment. The sincere belief that abortion is wrong by such a large portion of our country demands that their point of view be given serious consideration. It is doubtful that a repeal of the Hyde Amendment is possible anyway, even if the Democrats take the Senate, and increase their numbers in the House. I believe that it is more practical for us, who are solidly pro-choice, to work to set up a fund to help poor women obtain abortion services without the great financial burden that now exists.


Reproductive rights protect women who do not want an abortion and believe it is murder as much as women who want to terminate a pregnancy. A government that bans abortion is the same government who can turn around and make it compulsory.

The Hyde Amendment turns a constitutionally protected right and makes it only exercisable by those with money. If you are poor you cannot exercise your constitutional rights or have the right to privacy.

If A woman doesn't believe in abortion I support her right to carry it to term and help her to have a healthy pregnancy and make sure that child has a great start and the mother is supported. I don't want to leave financial support for reproductive rights to charity. There is a legitimate public health and societal benefit to make sure poor women are able to exercise their reproductive rights safely.

I have serious moral objections to war and the death penalty but my tax dollars pay for that. My tax dollars go to giving huge tax breaks to the ultra wealthy. We don't get to pick and chose which programs our tax dollars go to.

Targeting poor women for less rights is terrible policy and will only force them to go underground and risk their lives. The Hyde amendment represents an erosion of rights for women when you have to be wealthy to exercise that right.

Michael Kent

You people who want to impose your values on everyone else, especially the poor, and legislate with your religion view are the worst. You have the right to believe anything you want. Don't get an abortion Bill. Encourage your female friends and relatives to act as you believe. But to suggest that taking advantage of the economically disadvantaged because it suits your belief system is wrong.


God has granted women the intelligence and the right (at least in the U.S.) to decide when it is time to bring a child into the world. But the Hyde Amendment has ensured that women who are least able to care for a child are denied the funds to make that choice. So the cycle of poverty will continue to be held in higher regard than a poor woman's autonomy.


Funny how that "sizable portion of our country" doesn't have any problem with rich women getting abortions (which they do, All. The. Time.) They don't push through any legislation to stop THAT. Their focus is ALWAYS on the poor, because they have no power. It's always the poor who suffers while the wealthy still get to do whatever they want because they can pay for it.

K. Hagan

Kudos to Michael Kent. This is why it's call pro-choice, not pro-abortion. If you're morally opposed to abortion, by all means don't get one and encourage your family & friends to do the same. But don't you dare try to impose that personal moral opposition on the entire country!


There is a sizable portion of our country that is morally opposed to wars as well, and yet our tax dollars continue to be used for this purpose. Yours is not a sufficient argument.


There is an equally large group of people who believe that women are not capable of running a successful company.
Should we also seriously consider their belief?
A sincerely held belief doesn't make the person who holds it correct. It's their belief. No one is asking them to stop believing. We are telling them to stop forcing us to change our personal lives to suite their personal beliefs.


Just because the majority believe something, does not make it 1) correct; 2) morally tenable; or 3) legal to violate an individual's rights.


not stopping them from committing murder with the Hyde, but MY tax dollars should not pay for it get a job and pay for it yourself


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