Five Facts You Should Know About the Hyde Amendment

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Henry Hyde

Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde in May 1981. (AP Photo/File)

The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976 and affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1980, prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother. The law effectively leaves the decision of funding abortion to the states, and most states choose not to. Here are five facts you should know about the Hyde Amendment:

1. The law’s impact is limited almost entirely to poor women. The late Henry Hyde (R-IL), the conservative congressman who first proposed the amendment, acknowledged this reality during a Medicaid funding debate in 1977, when he told his colleagues:

“I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle-class woman or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the… Medicaid bill.”

2. About 42 percent of women who have abortions live below the poverty line. The unintended pregnancy rate among poor women is five times the rates for higher-income women, as is the abortion rate. One reported reason for the discrepancy is poor women’s limited access to contraception.

3. By restricting Medicaid funding for abortion, one in four low-income women who would like to obtain abortions are instead forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Since the Hyde Amendment was enacted more than 35 years ago, over one million women have been unable to afford abortions.

4. Since the Hyde Amendment passed, only four states have voluntarily decided to use their funds to cover abortion. Another 13 states are required to do so by court order, just as they would other forms of health care. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia basically follow the Hyde Amendment as the congressman intended, with some small variations. One state, South Dakota, only pays for abortion when a woman’s life is in danger, but not in cases of rape and incest — an apparent violation of federal law.

5. In order to assuage opponents of abortion in his own party, President Obama signed an executive order stating that The Affordable Care Act  – which could expand Medicaid to cover as many 21.3 million additional low-income Americans by 2022 — would maintain current Hyde Amendment restrictions.

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  • Anonymous

    So, President Obama would maintain the Hyde Amendment to assuage the right wing at the cost of many hardships, for women. Men are good at this. I can’t believe that our President, father of two daughters, would sign up for this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    And men vote to stop funding family planning clinics! How stupid are these men elected to office? ! Watch for a dramatic rise in pregnancies, STD’s, and welfare roles without the Family Planning Clinics.

    Nobody is for abortion, EXCEPT WHEN and except when is where the differences arise. I would like to see women stop needing abortions, but I could never force a woman either to have or not have an abortion. It is none of my business and none of their.

  • Anonymous

    To tell you the truth, if women want to fund abortions, WE, women, should raise money and pay for them. It would surely cost less than all the politics involved. AND we should make sure women and young girls have better sex education and are WELL aware that you WILL NOT go crazy, or be responsible for your man going crazy by not having sex every whimsical time it crosses the mind, and also WELL aware that with parenting comes expensive and lifelong responsibility, one our parents taught us you are free to be bad at, but you are always going to be that parent, and responsible for the life you created. AND that going bare or raw is what guys want, but do not want to pay the price, and young girls, women and unwanted children are going to end up paying that price along with the taxpayers who end up paying for juvenile programs, juvenile crime and welfare programs. AND that just because a guy says he wants to have sex, does NOT mean he loves you, or even likes you, or even wants to wake up sober and see what he has dragged home while drunk.

  • Mike Hardy

    According to pro-choice supporters, at what point does a fetus become a person? Mike Hardy

  • George Naylor

    The “religious” opponents of reproductive freedom are so hypocritical. When Obamacare provided that all health insurance policies cover contraception, they yelled it infringed on their religious rights. They wanted poor women to face the choice of spending their last dollars on food to feed their kids or risk adding another kid to the family or seeking an abortion which they couldn’t afford. This horrendous crisis would be imposed by religious institutions whose leaders can’t even control their own sexual appetites and expected our judicial system to look the other way. (In terms of hypocritical, it’s worth looking up Henry Hyde’s personal history, too.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    At conception. Abortion kills a fetus. Abortion is wrong for me. I can not judge for others. The 10 year old molested by father and brother, the raped special needs woman, the raped anyone, the teen who made a mistake and should not sacrifice her whole future, the middle age woman who thought she was not longer fertile, the woman with a damaged fetus whose medical bills would bankrupt the family. Also remember that the prolifer, conservatives want all of the above to have unwanted babies, but also want to cut welfare. Are they going to pay to bring these kids up?

  • Nitaboc

    Unfortunately…. I can! He is the same father who allows collateral damage to the children of others with his drone attacks in country’s where we have no right to be doing this. Can you imagine if the Chinese sent their drones here to murder their supposed terrorists and Americans suffered ‘collateral damage’? As you said, “men are good at this”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wishfulthinkn Thom Stewart

    In a perfect world there would be no need for an abortion. Alas this is not a perfect world. Unfortunately too many of the “poor”start having babies when they are still a baby. The prolifers are against abortion and want to cut out welfare, but have no answers about who is going to take care of these unwanted babies.there are no perfect answers but stopping all abortions is not the answer, just as a life on welfare is not the answer.

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes. The fanatical compassion for the fetus, the highest good in society, trumps everything and everyone else. Even though there are now 7 billion people now on this planet.

  • royaldcmusic

    Henry Hyde. He was a hypocrite about his own sex life but he did the bidding of his religious hierarchy to limit the life choices of women who weren’t as rich as he was.

  • Kerrie Wrye

    Privilege_ another form of slavery.

  • Kerrie Wrye

    This is not a rational conversation at all. Womens’ bodies are NOT possessions. No one can control our choices about how to take care of ourselves, but us. As long as federal funding in support of these efforts is an issue, the issue of not valuing women will remain.

  • Owen Johnson

    The Hyde Amendment punishes the taxpayers along with the poor women who can’t afford birth control (or the necessary doctor appointment to get it prescribed) and the children who are born to them. And with the current child support laws in most states, it also puts a burden on the accidental father for 18 years, who may well also be poor, working a minimum wage job. It’s just a bad deal all around.

    The “pro-life” movement isn’t really pro-life, it’s pro-birth. As George Carlin put it so well, once the child is born, he/she is on their own. This is the same thinking that sends our young people off to wars but once they’re discharged, they’re thrown on the scrap heap.

  • Alison McCulloch

    I’ve just finished writing a book on the abortion rights struggle in New Zealand. Henry Hyde visited NZ in 1978 as a guest of the main anti-abortion group. He was, according to press reports, more than happy to target poorer women. Here is what I think is a fascinating excerpt (ellipses added) from an article in the Auckland Star newspaper (now defunct) of 28 August 1978.

    Headline: Unborn rich are disadvantaged

    The unborn children of the rich in America
    have no defence when it comes to abortion, says visiting Republican Congressman
    Mr Henry J. Hyde.
    Nothing can stop them being murdered if them ‘mother’ can afford it, he told a Press conference today.
    ‘In this way, they are seriously disadvantaged beside the unborn of the poor, who are at least protected if an abortion is not available under welfare,’ he said.
    Mr. Hyde heads a campaign which has managed to place severe restrictions on the use of Government funds for abortions.
    He estimates the lives of 200,000 children have been saved since a Bill governing federal spending on health, education and welfare was amended last August to ban the use of funds ‘except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the foetus was carried full term’. …
    Mr Hyde praised New Zealand’s abortion legislation because it restricts
    abortion on demand. … Mr Hyde, in New Zealand as a guest of the Society for the
    Protection of the Unborn Child, will address a public meeting at the Auckland
    Teachers’ Training College tonight. END

  • Barbara Chasson

    The Hyde Amendment is SICK, SICK, SICK… Shame on you Barack. Rape and incest, and women’s choice should not be an ‘executive order’. Give WOMEN the choice and rights over their bodies!

  • Lee

    Thanks for the linguistic correction: yes, they are NOT pro-life, or they would have some concern for the lives of women who are pregnant against their wills. It is PRO-BIRTH. Have you read George Lakoff’s latest, “The Little Blue Book” which shows that the far right is decades ahead of the more progressive majority in inserting words into our culture that support their point of view.

  • V.R.S.

    I thought that there are no marxists and comunnists in USA. When I read your comments – I realised that I had been wrong. By what right taxpayers shall fund abortions? You are sick and totalitarian, no better than bolsheviks – but probably you Americans do not know who bolsheviks were. I answer you – they are your pro-choice friends, who introduced first legal abortion in the world in 1920. Yes, it was free. And it was in Communist Russia (later known as USSR). Legalising abortion is an evil, funding it is an evil multiplied. Yes, I am the man. The white man. The Christian. The anti-communist from “undeveloped” Eastern Europe. But my woman thinks the same and she is much more severe in here thought. Best wishes from noble country of Poland, which you probably do not know where is, and if you do – you do not know truth about it.

  • Scott Arnold

    You think a fetus is a person at conception, but you don’t think you can judge for others who, by your judgment, are killing a human person who is the most innocent party in the sexual act, be it rape, incest or consensual sex? I’m sure the child is gratified by your tolerance toward its mother.

  • Scott Arnold

    The nerve of these callous religious types. Why won’t they just let those leftist do-gooders ensure that poor people get free abortions. Eugenics much?

  • flyby

    Federal funding provides contraceptives to the poor; a much better alternative than abortion. The Hyde ammendment does not prevent federal funding for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother.
    Guess what, there are some poor who have children in order to receive more government assistance.