The Hyde Amendment has taken away the right to choose from an incalculable number of Americans with lower incomes since 1976.
Congressional Republicans are attempting to preserve a federal anti-abortion policy, inadvertently bragging about how many lower-income Americans it has hurt over the years in the process. And they are warning that its repeal could allow people to actually access their right to choose.
"Make no mistake: if Democrats get their way and end the Hyde Amendment, we will see a drastic increase in abortions," Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn tweeted on Thursday. "I stand for life. We must protect our unborn. #HydeSavesLives."
With her tweet, she shared a graphic that said "FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ABORTION = MORE ABORTION."
The Hyde Amendment — named for then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), who first authored it in 1976 — is a rider that has been included in most federal spending bills since 1976, barring almost all federal abortion funding for the Medicaid program. It also impacts women and gender minorities who get their insurance through Medicare and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Republican lawmakers are upset that Democrats are planning to keep a campaign promise and scrap the rule in the upcoming federal budget legislation.
As of 2021, 16 states use their own funds to provide abortion funding for Medicaid recipients. But in the rest of the country, the rule provides a significant obstacle for poorer people seeking an abortion — particularly women of color.
Dozens of Blackburn's House and Senate colleagues used the "#HydeSavesLives" hashtag Thursday to assert that "millions" of people could have accessed abortion but for the rule. Many shared another graphic that claimed, "THE HYDE AMENDMENT HAS SAVED NEARLY 2.5 MILLION AMERICAN LIVES."
"The Hyde Amendment has saved nearly 2.5 million lives since 1976," wrote Texas Rep. Kevin Brady. "Now Democrats want to destroy this life-saving protection & force taxpayers to fund abortions."
"For more than 40 years, the Hyde amendment has ensured that American tax dollars are not used to fund abortions, resulting in nearly 2.5 million lives saved. This year, Democrats have stripped this protection from the appropriations bill. Congress must Hyde [sic]," said Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar.
The 2.5 million figure appears to come from an anti-abortion group's 2020 report, based on estimates of how much abortion rate declined in states that do not provide any abortion coverage for people on Medicaid.
But it is impossible to know how many people opted not to choose an abortion because they could not afford it. The Guttmacher Institute estimated in 2017 that the Hyde Act impacts about 7.5 million women of reproductive age, including 3.5 million living below the federal poverty level. Just over half of those are women of color.
In June 2019, the presidential candidate Joe Biden announced that he would no longer support the Hyde Amendment, months before the first Democratic nomination contests.
"I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to ... exercise their constitutionally protected right," he explained. "If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code."
In the summer of 2020, the Democratic National Committee adopted a platform that explicitly called for Hyde's elimination.
"We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion," they agreed. "We will repeal the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify the right to reproductive freedom."
Biden won and Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.