On Tax Day, remember that taxpayer money still can’t fund abortions

abortion, women

Low-income people struggle to pay for the procedure.

Pro-choice activists celebrate during a rally at the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2016, after the court struck down Texas’ widely replicated regulation of abortion clinics

Abortions are expensive, especially for low-income people, but we still refuse to use taxpayer money to fund abortion in the United States.

The national average for an abortion in the first trimester is around $500, and second trimester abortions can come to as much as $2,000, according to estimates from the Guttmacher Institute. And the think tank estimated that 75 percent of abortion patients in 2014 were poor or low-income.

Since the 1970s, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-abortion laws in its Roe v. Wade decision, Republican lawmakers have done everything in their power to make it challenging for women and other people who can get pregnant to pay for an abortion. The Hyde Amendment, first passed in 1976, officially prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions. The late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) said abortions should be luxuries that only rich women should be able to access.

“If rich women want to enjoy their high-priced vices, that is their responsibility…that is fine, but not at the taxpayers’ expense,” Hyde once said.

Although the amendment named for Hyde is a budget rider, not a permanent law, it has passed every year since 1976.

From 1981 to 1993, there was an exception allowing federal money to fund abortions in cases when the patient’s life was endangered, and in 1993, President Bill Clinton signed into law a new version of the amendment that provided an exception for rape and incest.

‘No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion’: How The Right’s Rallying Cry Ends Up Hurting Millions Of Women

But on the whole, the Hyde Amendment has affected millions of people’s lives, particularly the lives of low-income women and women of color. Since the amendment does not allow people to access abortion coverage through Medicaid, low-income Americans are often left without any other options, according to a 2013 Guttmacher Institute analysis. One in four women who have Medicaid coverage subject to the Hyde Amendment can’t get the procedure precisely because they aren’t covered.

As a result of the Hyde Amendment, similar coverage restrictions have also been enacted for low-income D.C. residents, military personnel, federal employees, federal prison inmates, and Native American women. For example, women in the military can’t access abortion care on U.S. military bases overseas, whether they can pay for the procedure or not. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program prevents abortion coverage for federal employees, and that plan covers 9 million employees and dependents.

About 20 million people are affected rely on one of insurance programs affected by the ban on federal funding for abortion.

Incarcerated women face limited abortion access despite court rulings

The Hyde Amendment also had an effect on the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Insurers can offer abortion care as part of their plans but they are not required to. The Nelson Amendment, which required insurance plans to separate abortion care funds and funds for other kinds of health care, passed Congress during negotiations over the health care legislation as a concession to moderate Democrats.

In an interview with The Nation last summer, Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said she saw an increase in requests for financial assistance for abortions and related costs. Laws restricting abortion through burdensome regulations have made it even more difficult for women to access the procedure. Hernandez said that many of the people calling her organization with requests have to make decisions about whether they will pay rent or buy food if they don’t receive help.

Opposition to the Hyde Amendment gained momentum last year, when national women’s reproductive health organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights made it a priority. Hillary Clinton became the first presidential candidate to call on Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) followed. The Democratic Party also added a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment to the official party platform.

Those efforts are now in danger, however. Days after the Women’s March on Washington, House Republicans voted to make the Hyde amendment permanent. There is a companion bill in the Senate but it is not expected to pass.


On Tax Day, remember that taxpayer money still can’t fund abortions was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.