The Hyde Amendment
The Hyde Amendment blocks United States federal funding from being used for abortion procedures, except in the cases of rape, incest, or threat to a pregnant person’s life. This means that Americans who have health insurance through the federal government do not have the benefit of abortion coverage.
Affected programs include those that cover low-income people, disabled people, military personnel, veterans, Native Americans, federal employees, federal prisoners, detained immigrants, and Peace Corps volunteers. People who fall into these categories must pay for their abortions out of pocket, which is especially difficult for patients who are already struggling financially, as in the case of those who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
Different Coverage in Different States
Medicaid recipients make up the majority of people who are impacted by the Hyde Amendment. Approximately 14.2 million women of reproductive age (15–44) are covered by Medicaid. These women struggle to survive on salaries that don’t come close to a living wage—a $500 abortion (the average cost of an early procedure) is completely out of reach.
Medicaid is funded by the federal government and by each state’s government. There are currently 15 states that use their own funds to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients who don’t meet the federal allowed exceptions (rape, incest, threat to pregnant person’s life). There are 7.7 million women of reproductive age who receive Medicaid, however, who live in Washington, DC, and the 35 states that do not cover abortion outside of the Hyde exceptions with their own funds.
People who qualify for income-based federal subsidies when purchasing insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace are also disqualified from receiving abortion coverage in the states that do not cover abortion outside of the Hyde exceptions.
Origins of the Amendment
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) authored the Hyde Amendment in 1976. When debating the amendment with his colleagues, he said, “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.” Congress approved the Hyde Amendment in the 1977 appropriations bill, as it has done every year since then.
Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (EACH Woman Act)
The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (often referred to as the EACH Woman Act) would counter the Hyde Amendment and restore abortion coverage to people who get their health insurance through Medicaid and other federal programs. In addition, it would bar federal and state governments from interfering with abortion coverage in private health insurance. The bill is expected to be reintroduced soon. In the last Congress, it had 24 co-sponsors in the Senate and 181 in the House.