By Destiny Lopez, co-director, All* Above All
The Hyde Amendment—a federal ban on insurance coverage of abortion for women enrolled in Medicaid—has been in the news lately, often in a highly politicized context. While it’s all too common for partisan politics to obscure the real issues at stake, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, policy is about people, not politicians.
Several opinion pieces and statements by Democrats have reminded us that not all in the party support abortion rights. Perhaps less visible, though undoubtedly no less numerous, are Republicans that do. Particularly when you look at state legislatures and local governments, it’s clear that views on abortion are more nuanced, and less partisan, than the national rhetoric would lead us to believe.
Abortion coverage is no different. In fact, when you look at how abortion coverage bans affect people, how they harm women and families across the country and create economic instability, it becomes clear that this issue should enjoy bipartisan support.
For 40 years, politicians have used the Hyde Amendment to deny a woman’s health coverage for abortion just because she’s poor. Over the years, the punishment of the Hyde Amendment has been extended to deny coverage to federal employees and their dependents, military service members, Native Americans, Peace Corps volunteers, immigrants, and residents of Washington, D.C. The impact of these bans is that health care is delayed or outright denied: restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Many Democrats who support ending bans on insurance coverage for abortion do so because they believe in the values of women’s health and fair treatment. They believe no one should be denied abortion coverage just because they’re poor, and they are morally compelled by the data showing that coverage bans fall hardest on those already struggling to get by, including: women of color, young people, and immigrants.
Republicans and Democrats alike want to reduce poverty and want the economy to thrive. Coverage bans runs counter to these goals: a woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get an abortion.
Whether you support access to a full range of pregnancy related care, or just want politicians to stay out of health care decisions: the Hyde Amendment should rankle. Whether you believe abortion can be the best decision for a woman, or simply believe that it’s her decision to make, the Hyde Amendment should raise alarms. Just imagine: small-government conservatives working side-by-side with progressives to lift the bans that deny abortion coverage.
I know what the politicos and cynics will say: in these days of partisan rancor, such a consensus on an issue of abortion rights—of all things—seems far-fetched. But, thankfully, the American people don’t share that view.
A poll from Hart Research Associates shows 86 percent of voters agree “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.” There is broad consensus on this point across age groups: 90 percent of voters 18 to 34 and 84 percent of voters 65 and over agree. Perhaps even more encouragingly, there’s broad consensus across political affiliation: 85 percent of independents, 79 percent of Republicans, and 94 percent of Democrats agree.
The Hyde Amendment turns 40 this year. Forty years is certainly long enough for the debate over this policy to attain the sober, measured clarity of middle age. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, we all want what is best for our families: including our mothers, daughters, and sisters. We all want to be able to make our own decisions about our families and our future. And however we may feel personally about abortion, none of us want politicians standing between a woman and her decisions about health care.
Photo credit: All* Above All, The Supreme Court rally on the decision day in the case of Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt in June 2016.