By now, most people have heard of the Hyde Amendment. The law lies at the heart of a contentious abortion debate, with groups like Planned Parenthood having recently launched massive campaigns to overturn it. But while the name might sound familiar, few Americans know exactly what the law does and doesn’t do, and arguably fewer understand the critical safeguards it provides for women.
So what exactly is the Hyde amendment, why is it so important, and why do so many abortion rights activists want it gone?
Here are the basics.
The Hyde Amendment was enacted in 1976, only three years after Roe v. Wade. It was passed in a bipartisan vote by a majority Democrat Congress, and signed into law by Democratic President Jimmy Carter. The amendment is what’s commonly referred to as a “rider,” meaning it’s not a permanent law. Instead, it’s repeatedly attached to Congress’s annual spending bills. It’s been passed by every Congress and signed by every president – including Republicans and Democrats – since it was first enacted 40 years ago.
The law made a lot of sense. Roe v. Wade had made abortion legal nationwide, but the Hyde Amendment stated that no federal tax dollars funneled through the government’s Medicaid program could be used for elective abortions, a provision that helped protect the millions of pro-life Americans from watching their money go toward elective abortion services.
What it’s not.
The Hyde Amendment doesn’t impact whether or not a woman can legally get an abortion. It also doesn’t restrict a woman’s personal health insurance plan, which may cover elective abortion procedures, and it does allow the use of Medicaid dollars for abortion procedures in cases of rape,incest or life of the mother. Because Medicaid is a joint initiative between the federal government and the state, the program is funded from both the federal and state coffers. This means Medicaid coverage can vary widely depending on the state you’re in. So while the Hyde Amendment prohibits states from using federal dollars to pay for elective abortions, it doesn’t restrict the state from using its own funds for the same purpose.
So why is Hyde important?
The Hyde Amendment is vital for several reasons. First, it protects the conscience of the roughly 45 to 50 percent (depending on the study) of Americans who identify as pro-life. It also keeps millions in federal funding from going toward gruesome procedures such as late-term abortions – something as many as 81 percent of Americans say they oppose.
But perhaps even more importantly, the Hyde Amendment protects some of the most vulnerable women in America.
Medicaid coverage is offered to low-income Americans who cannot afford health services, many of whom have incomes between 100 and 200 percent below the federal poverty line. It’s these women who are most often targeted by Planned Parenthood and other organizations that make millions of dollars off abortion services.
For example, a recent analysis revealed that eight out of 10 Planned Parenthood clinics are located in low-income neighborhoods, and nearly 40 percent of the children they abort are minority babies. Despite the fact that many of their patients are poor, the group still manages to make around $160 million off abortion services per year (based on the per-abortion cost estimated by Guttmacher Institute).
Planned Parenthood also has a financial reason for keeping women in the dark about non-abortive options.
According to the group’s own annual report, Planned Parenthood aborted 324,000 babies in its 2014-15 fiscal year, but referred only 2,024 cases to outside adoption agencies. And while almost all Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortions, very few offer prenatal services to women who choose life for their baby, proving the group has a much more vested interest in women choosing abortion than exploring other alternatives.
If the Hyde Amendment were to be overturned, millions more in federal dollars would be freed up to pay for elective abortions on demand. Not only would this force millions of pro-life Americans to actively fund abortions, it would provide abortion clinics with an even greater incentive to push women toward abortion without informing them of their other options.
This chance to make more money would understandably lead to countless more abortions, and even more women would continue to be victimized by the lucrative abortion industry.
Want to make a difference? Start a conversation and educate others on the Hyde Amendment, give back to your local pregnancy center, and join us as we equip pregnancy resource centers to more effectively connect with abortion-vulnerable women.