Henry Hyde was a Democratic Representative from Illinois and was vehemently opposed to the legalization of abortion. When he introduced the Hyde Amendment to the House of Representatives in 1976, he justified it by claiming that taxpayers shouldn’t have to support something they are morally opposed to. There was more to his motivation than that; he admitted the reason he really wanted the amendment enacted was to limit poor women from accessing abortion because he knew they would be unable to afford one on their own. He didn’t do it because he sympathized with taxpayers, he did it because he wanted to stop women from having abortions all together yet this flimsy excuse has been used for 31 years to justify depriving poor women access to a legal medical procedure.
This prejudicial legislation was passed by both the House and Senate and was enacted in 1977 leaving millions of American women unable to afford and obtain an abortion when needed. Shortly after the amendment passed a woman on Medicaid seeking an abortion filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of herself and similarly situated women to try and have the amendment overturned. The case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and in 1980 a 5-4 vote determined that it is not a constitutional violation to limit a poor woman’s access to abortion by banning Medicaid coverage.
The primary argument in favor of the continuation and expansion of the Hyde Amendment in recent legislative debates is the idea that taxpayer dollars should not go towards supporting a completely legal procedure, simply because some people are opposed to it. I have a common but still valid rebuttal to that: if anti-abortion advocates can claim moral opposition to Medicaid funding of abortion, does that mean I can claim moral opposition to taxpayer funding to protect murderers in the Witness Protection Program? As of right now, I can’t so why is Medicaid coverage of abortions different?
What don’t you want your tax dollars spent on? Check out the video below for some responses.
The National Network of Abortion Funds is sponsoring a petition supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and all similar bans. Go here to sign up now.