The Strange Case of The Hyde Amendment

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Friday, September 30 marks an anniversary that remains a bitter pill to swallow for many people in favor of women’s health and reproductive rights. The pro-life statute, the Hyde Amendment, turns 40 years old.

Access to healthcare varies from state- to-state, race, age and economic status- even from woman to woman within her own social circle.  Today, New Mexico is one of thirteen states in the nation that interprets their state constitutions to declare broad and independent protection for reproductive choice.  

Thanks to the ever-vigilant progressives in New Mexico, women have more access to reproductive healthcare than many women in the United States.  However in 2011, 94% of New Mexico counties had no abortion clinic and 60% of New Mexico women lived in those counties.

There are no laurels to rest upon when it comes to the Hyde Amendment restrictions that are still in effect as a constant threat to women’s reproductive rights.
Three years after the United States Supreme Court issued their landmark ruling in favor of Roe v. Wade, granting women the right to a safe abortion, The US House of Representatives passed the Hyde Amendment which barred the use of federal funds to pay for those abortions. The Hyde Amendment has had a major impact on the reproductive lives of women across the nation.

 

“The Hyde Amendment is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.” — Justice Thurgood Marshall, disagreeing with the majority opinion in the 1980 Supreme Court decision upholding the Hyde Amendment.

First enacted in 1976, the Hyde Amendment, proposed by the late Republican Senator Henry Hyde, prohibits federal funding for abortions through Medicaid except in the case of incest, rape or if the fetus endangers the life of the mother. A woman who receives her health benefits through Medicaid must pay for her own abortion she although her insurance may cover all of her other health-care needs.

The women most affected by Hyde are women of color. In New Mexico, though women and families have have full access to reproductive care, including access to abortion, women in neighboring states are not so fortunate. Women from Texas and Arizona cross into New Mexico every day for access to safe, reproductive health care.  In those states,  Latina, and Native American women are disproportionately impacted by this amendment that was purposefully designed to disenfranchise all women.

“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.” – Henry Hyde

The Hyde Amendment continues to drive a wedge between the haves and have-nots, 40 years later. New Mexico is one of only a handful of states that allow their Medicaid funding to cover the cost of an abortion. 42% of women who obtain abortions live below the poverty line

Millions of women who want to have an abortion don’t have the money or the health coverage to obtain one.  Compounded by the shuttering of abortion clinics all over the nation, it’s virtually impossible for some women to obtain reproductive services at all. While women make the journey to New Mexico to obtain safe abortions, a new generation of activists use art and performances as a means to take a stand where they are. “Lady Parts Justice League, a rapid-response comedy production team founded by “Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead, just dropped this “Formation” spoof to highlight how TRAP Laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and other anti-abortion regulations affect women’s access to reproductive healthcare in Louisiana.” (The “InFormation . . .” video is no longer available . . .)