September 29, 2016 — In an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) shares how she has been working to end the Hyde Amendment since its initial passage nearly 40 years ago, writing, "Forty years of Hyde has done terrible harm to women and families, and I'm more determined than ever to finish the work I started so long ago."
According to Lee, the amendment makes "the legal right to abortion essentially meaningless for poor women and women of color by stripping it out of their insurance coverage." She notes that since it was passed, the amendment has "launched a wave of abortion restrictions that has only intensified in recent years." She writes, "Since 2010, state legislatures have passed an astounding 334 abortion restrictions," noting that "[t]hese dangerous restrictions have increased the cost of care and have made Hyde even more harmful to low-income women, women of color and students."
Lee states, "Make no mistake, the Hyde Amendment directly targets low-income women and women of color. It's original sponsor proudly said as much on the House floor." She writes, "However we feel about abortion, none of us, especially politicians, should be interfering with a woman's health care decisions just because she is poor. This is discrimination, plain and simple."
Lee explains that "restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking abortion to carry an [unintended] pregnancy to term." According to Lee, "These women and other women denied an abortion are more likely to fall into poverty than those who received care."
She continues, "Over the last four decades, Hyde has brought pain and punishment to federal employees and their dependents, our brave women in uniform, female veterans, Native Americans, Peace Corps volunteers and D.C. residents." However, "[a]s the list of those impacted by coverage bans has grown, so has the movement fighting back," Lee writes, noting that in collaboration "with All* Above All and other bold organizations, we are back on the offensive."
Lee spotlights the EACH Woman Act (HR 2972), which she introduced last year with 70 co-sponsors. According to Lee, the bill, which now has 120 co-sponsors, would "stop politicians from interfering with a woman's personal health care decision" and "lift the coverage bans that prevent women from making the decision that's best for her and her family."
Lee notes that "this movement isn't just members of Congress; it's people and organizations of conscience including abortion funds, labor unions, people of faith, groups representing black, Latino and Asian-American communities and youth organizations who have declared their support."
Lee concludes, "I've been fighting the Hyde Amendment for 40 years, and we are finally on the offensive. The current groundswell of support is nothing like I've seen before. I truly believe this is a battle we can win. More than that, it's a battle we must win" (Lee, U.S. News & World Report, 9/28).