Hyde abortion restrictions targeted

The Hyde amendment marks its 37th anniversary Monday, and pro-choice groups and their allies are determined to see it repealed before it hits its 40th. The measure — named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde, Illinois Republican — prohibits federal dollars from subsidizing most abortions in the Medicaid program for poor women.

“Thirty-seven years is long enough,” said Kate Stewart, a communications official with Advocates for Youth, one of 20 feminist and pro-choice groups backing a campaign against the Hyde amendment called All Above All. Health insurance reform is expanding Medicaid, and by extension, the Hyde amendment, she said. Ending Hyde “is a stand we all feel we need to take We’ve decided, once and for all, to be on the bus instead of thrown underneath it.” Meanwhile, the leader of a pro-life group issued a report this week that projects that — despite the Hyde amendment — the new health insurance law could result in another 71,000 to 111,500 abortions performed each year with government funds.
“Social conservatives are rightly alarmed about the impact of Obamacare on abortion subsidies and reimbursement,” Charles A. Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and author of the new report, said on National Review Online. Some 27 states and the District do not currently exclude elective abortion from their health exchanges, he noted in his new report.
This means that in many states, “Americans will be complicit in the deaths of thousands of unborn children each year through their tax dollars,” he said. The Charlotte Lozier Institute is the education and research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. Government funding of abortion has been hotly debated since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
After several years of arguing, Congress enacted the Hyde amendment on Sept. 30, 1976, to prohibit federal funds from paying for abortions except in cases where the mother’s life was in danger. Exceptions for rape or incest were added later. As an amendment, though, the Hyde restriction is not a permanent law, but has to be affirmatively added to the annual appropriations bill of the Department of Health and Human Services — a feat that has happened every year since it was established.
Research now shows that poor women often struggle to pay for an abortion — which costs an average of $470 in the first trimester, said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Last year we received over 100,000 calls for help” to pay for abortions, said Stephanie Poggi, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Because poor women take longer to scrape together money for abortion, they often need later-term abortions which are both expensive and more dangerous, “a vicious cycle,” said Heather Boonstra, senior public policy associate at Guttmacher Institute.
Getting rid of the Hyde amendment is going to be “a multiyear effort,” but the new coalition should play a role in it, and “push us forward to a new day on this issue,” said Ms. Poggi. Separately, on Wednesday night, another All Above All coalition member, the Center for Reproductive Rights, held a coast-to-coast Web event to promote its “Draw the Line” campaign.
CRR, which is involved in several lawsuits against new state regulations on abortion, decries both the Hyde amendment and a bill by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, to make the Hyde amendment a permanent law.

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