Enacted in 1976, the Hyde Amendment turns 40 years old this year. The Hyde Amendment was introduced by the late Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois who sought to ban abortions outright. Disappointed that the Supreme Court had just ruled that the Constitution protects the right to an abortion, Rep. Hyde introduced the amendment to restrict abortion access for those who qualify for Medicaid.
The amendment withholds insurance coverage for abortion care in virtually all cases from women who qualify for Medicaid and others who access their health insurance through the federal government. Effectively, it reserves the right to an abortion for those privileged to afford it.
But the Hyde Amendment is not permanent law. Anti-choice politicians have written Hyde into congressional appropriations language every year since 1976. Passage of one federal bill — the EACH Woman Act — would put an end to the Hyde Amendment for good. This legislation restores abortion coverage for everyone who needs it, regardless of income level.
Medicaid coverage can mean the difference between getting abortion care and being denied. The Hyde Amendment forces many women to divert money meant for living expenses — like food, rent, utilities and bills — to pay for an abortion. It makes it less possible for a low-income woman to access her health care options and exercise her constitutionally protected right to an abortion.
Despite the federal ban, in 17 states qualified women can use Medicaid to cover the cost of an abortion. For now, thanks to the late Rep. Henry Hyde, access to the constitutionally protected right to abortion depends on where you live and how much you make.