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Pro-choice activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2020. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Pro-choice activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2020. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

'Enough Is Enough': 44 Groups Slam House Democrats for Including Hyde Amendment in Spending Bill

"It is long past time for our elected officials to put an end to abortion coverage bans once and for all, so no one is denied abortion care because of how much money they make or how they get their health insurance."

Jessica Corbett

A coalition of 44 reproductive health, justice, and rights groups called out House Democrats for including the decades-old Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion services with limited exceptions, in a fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill that advanced Tuesday evening.

"We say: enough is enough," the groups declared in a joint statement Tuesday night. "For 43 years, the Hyde Amendment has banned abortion coverage for people enrolled in Medicaid health insurance. It is long past time for our elected officials to put an end to abortion coverage bans once and for all, so no one is denied abortion care because of how much money they make or how they get their health insurance."

Since 1973, there have been various versions of the Hyde Amendment. Since 1994, Medicaid has covered abortion care in cases of incest, rape, and if continuing the pregnancy endangers the patient's life. Reproductive rights groups long have pressured lawmakers to repeal the amendment, often emphasizing that it "is particularly harmful to people with low incomes, people of color, young people, and immigrants—who all disproportionately rely on Medicaid for their healthcare coverage."

The coalition's statement—circulated by the group All* Above All—made a similar point while putting the amendment's impact into the context of the current moment:

Bans on abortion coverage, like the Hyde Amendment, have long disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and the time has come to end these bans. We need healthcare that works for everyone. There is too much at stake to stand in the way of someone's decision of whether to become a parent. Anti-abortion politicians and the Trump administration are working to push abortion care out of reach entirely, which most harms women of color.

BIPOC communities have long bore the brunt of the racial and economic inequities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The threats to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, have never been more present, as our nation faces an unprecedented public health emergency while also experiencing a long-needed reckoning on how systemic racism permeates our society and institutions.

The statement also cited a September 2019 poll showing (pdf) the majority of U.S. voters support Medicaid coverage of abortion and an April 2019 poll showing 84% of female voters of color believe political candidates should support patients making their own reproductive health decisions.

"This Congress has chosen to ignore what women of color have been saying for decades, and what the majority of national voters now agree with—however we feel about abortion, no one should be denied access to it just because they are struggling to make ends meet," the coalition's statement concluded.

Other groups backing the statement include the Abortion Care Network, ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, Guttmacher Institute, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), National Women's Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The House Appropriations Committee and multiple subcommittees are holding sessions on annual spending bills throughout the week. The Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) approved its fiscal year 2021 bill that includes the Hyde Amendment on Tuesday evening. The vote followed reporting last week that despite internal debates among Democratic leaders, the amendment would be included in this year's appropriation bills.

In addition to supporting the coalition statement, NCLR executive director Imani Rupert-Gordon put out a statement expressing disappointment in the LHHS bill.

"It is appalling that as our nation is undergoing significant upheaval as we continue to grapple with how to end systemic racism, Congress is perpetuating a decades-old policy that disproportionately harms people of color," said Rupert-Gordon. "We applaud the Black women members of the House who continue to fight for the end of the Hyde Amendment, and we will stand with them until this shameful policy is a thing of the past."

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) declared in a Monday statement about the Hyde Amendment that "this first ever pro-choice majority in the House of Representatives has a mandate and a responsibility to stand up for reproductive rights and justice for all, not just those who can afford it. This is a racial justice issue."

Pressley said that she was "deeply disappointed" that the amendment was included in the LHHS funding bill. The congresswoman, who is not on the Appropriations Committee, added: "I intend to work with my colleagues to finally repeal Hyde when the bill comes to the House floor and I will file an amendment to do just that."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the LHHS subcommittee, delivered remarks during the Tuesday session. The congresswoman celebrated pieces of the bill—from support for programs like Early Head Start and Social Security to emergency Covid-19 appropriations—but also addressed the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment.

"The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy," DeLauro said. "This is a long-standing issue of racial injustice and one that is routinely considered—every year as a legislative rider—but we are in a moment to reckon with the norm, with tradition, and view it through the lens of racial justice. So, although this year's bill includes it, let me be clear we will fight to remove the Hyde Amendment to ensure that women of color and all women have access to the reproductive health they deserve."

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