On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is all but assured to reach the number of delegates she needs to clinch the Democratic nomination for president. And unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that Bernie Sanders has pledged to take this contest all the way to the Democratic National Convention, which takes place this July in Philadelphia. Whatever happens in the next two months, the Democratic party is poised to do something momentous in the fight for reproductive justice: put a candidate on the ballot who has explicitly supported repealing the Hyde Amendment.
While the Hyde Amendment has been getting more attention, thanks to the work of the All Above All campaign and the EACH Woman Act, it remains a relatively obscure amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations.
After its passage in 1976, author Representative Henry Hyde did not mince words in explaining why he had proposed this amendment:
“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.”
-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), 1977
The original language barred people who on Medicaid from receiving insurance coverage for abortion care. Since then, it has expanded to include:
- Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollees;
- Federal employees and their dependents;
- Peace Corps volunteers;
- Native Americans;
- Women in federal prisons and detention centers, including those detained for immigration purposes;
- Low-income women in the District of Columbia.
Twenty-five states have enacted further restrictions on coverage for abortion care, and together these restrictions create sometimes insurmountable financial obstacles for people seeking abortion access.
Before 2016, no presidential candidate from either party had ever committed to repealing the Hyde Amendment. Then, in January, Hillary Clinton called for the amendment to be repealed. Two weeks later, Bernie Sanders also expressed his support for repealing the amendment, ensuring that whoever democrats choose to represent them on the presidential ticket, that candidate will be committed to increasing access to abortion care by repealing the Hyde Amendment.
This places the Democratic ticket in sharp contrast to Republicans, from the presumptive presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to elected officials at the state level. Donald Trump infamously stated his support for punishing people who provide abortions, and has indicated that he now believes abortion should be illegal.
Texas Republicans, who affirmed their belief that abortion should be “abolished” at their state convention last month, don’t even want private insurance providers to be able to cover abortion care.
In the 84th regular legislative session in 2015, Senator Schwertner filed Senate Bill 575, a law that would bar private health insurance providers from offering coverage for abortion care as a part of their policies. The bill made it through the Senate and almost became law by passing the House, but was defeated by a procedural deadline at the last minute.
This policy will almost certainly be re-introduced in the 85th legislative session this January, along with a host of other abortion restrictions aimed at abolishing abortion in practice by further reducing access to abortion care.
When it comes to reproductive healthcare, the difference between electing a Republican or a Democrat this November could not be more clear. While Republicans are fighting to bar even private insurance coverage for abortion care, both potential nominees in the Democratic primary have publicly stated their support for allowing federally funded health insurance policies to cover these reproductive health services. It’s time to repeal Hyde, and democrats can rest assured that the presumptive nominee is committed to doing exactly that.