The Hyde Amendment is an obscure budget rider that bans any federal funding from covering abortion services, which means low-income women on Medicaid can’t use their plans to cover an abortion. It has also helped limit access for government employees, military personnel, those in the Peace Corps, and others. It’s become a routine piece of policy, renewed in every federal spending bill since 1976, and frequently becomes a political football, as when President Obama signed an executive order including restrictions along the lines of Hyde in the Affordable Care Act as a way to win support for the bill’s passage.
But now both frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination have come out against it, calling for it to be repealed. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called for a reversal of Hyde, and now Bernie Sanders has followed suit.
On Friday, Sanders said in a statement, “Women must have full control over their reproductive health in order to have full control over their lives. We must rescind the Hyde Amendment and resist attempts by states to erect roadblocks to abortion.” Sanders has voted against the Hyde Amendment while serving in both the House and Senate, but his statement made his intentions clear to repeal it once and for all if elected.
It also came on the heels of statements he made calling Planned Parenthood and NARAL, both organizations that advocate for abortion rights, part of the “political establishment” that he is “taking on.” He later tried to backtrack after Planned Parenthood, which has endorsed Clinton, called him out for it.
The issue of abortion access for low-income women has gained more salience in recent years. The Democratic Party added a plank to its platform in 2012 supporting a woman’s right to abortion “regardless of ability to pay.” And last summer, a group of congressmembers introduced a landmark bill ensuring that government-provided insurance and health care cover abortion services, which would effectively end Hyde.
Abortions can be very costly, particularly when they have to be paid for out of pocket, which is one reason why low-income women are three times less likely to get an abortion and five times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. This only exacerbates their situation, as women who seek an abortion but aren’t able to actually get the procedure are three times more likely to fall into poverty over the following years.