|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to make what is perhaps the most profoundly personal of healthcare decisions –when to start a family – free from undue government interference.
Unfortunately, since 1976, Congress has sought to undermine this important constitutional right by attaching the so-called “Hyde Amendment” to annual appropriations measures funding the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Hyde Amendment – named for its original sponsor, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde – prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for an abortion except to protect the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
There are many reasons why this restriction should be rescinded.
To begin with, the Hyde Amendment is a blatant example of politicians inappropriately interfering in women’s health care decisions.
For more than 40 years, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land. Yet, it is clear that the Hyde Amendment’s purpose is to undermine the Roe’s constitutional guarantee of a right to choose to terminate a pregnancy by limiting low-income women’s access to safe, legal medical care.
Politicians, most of whom are not doctors, have no business interfering in a woman’s constitutionally protected private healthcare decisions in order to impose their own moral views about women’s rights and healthcare.
In addition, the Hyde Amendment has a disproportionately detrimental impact on the health of low-income women and the wellbeing of their families.
According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, many low-income women lacking medical coverage are forced to delay paying utility bills, rent, or grocery bills for themselves or their children; to seek out financial assistance from relatives or friends; or to sell personal belongings in order to pay for an abortion.
Moreover, women who cannot afford an abortion procedure may, in desperation, resort to self-inducing an abortion or turn to unsafe, untrained, or unlicensed practitioners – heightening the risk of injury or death from what is supposed to be a safe, legal medical procedure.
Finally, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects women of color
Medicaid provides medical coverage to 20% of women of reproductive age.
But, as a result of social and economic inequality tied to the persistence of racism in our society, 30% of African American women and 24% of Hispanic women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to just 14% of white women of reproductive age.
Clearly, the consequences of the Hyde Amendment disproportionately fall on women of color.
While 15 states permit the use of their own funds to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid enrollees, 60% of women of reproductive age enrolled in Medicare live in states that only cover abortion in limited circumstances.
Rather than undermine the constitutional rights of low-income women and women of color, Congress should look to these states as an example and act to ensure that women -- regardless of their financial situation -- have access to quality, comprehensive reproductive health services.
I thank the witnesses for participating in this hearing and I look forward to hearing their testimony.
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