One of the oldest laws targeting abortion access is finally seeing the fight it deserves

Back in 1977, Rep. Henry Hyde knew he was targeting poor women. Now, an estimated 20 million people struggle to access abortion services — despite constitutional protections.


TARA CULP-RESSLER, ThinkProgress: You might already know that federal funds can’t be used to pay for abortion, but did you know the policy was created with the explicit goal of discrimination?

“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.”

That’s Henry Hyde, the Illinois Representative who created the Hyde Amendment, just 4 years after Roe V. Wade.

And 40 years later, Hyde is still disproportionately preventing communities color, younger generations, and low-income Americans from accessing abortion.

KIERRA JOHNSON, URGE: Not only have women who have medicaid insurance been affected, but military women, women who are in the Peace Corps, Native American women, immigrants, residents in D.C. have all unfortunately suffered from the progeny of that policy.

CULP-RESSLER: That’s an estimated 20 million people who have to pay out of pocket for health care, which is supposed to be constitutionally protected.

And while Hyde has been around for decades, most people didn’t start paying attention to it until recently.

JOHNSON: We have gone from people not speaking or hearing about this issue to one that’s got the attention of members of Congress, grassroots activists across the nation, and pop culture icons. We even have a presidential candidate who’s talked about repealing the Hyde Amendment, so we’ve come a long way.

CULP-RESSLER: Yep — you heard that right…

HILLARY CLINTON: Let’s repeal laws like the Hyde Amendment.

CULP-RESSLER: And that’s not all…

CULP-RESSLER: As a result, a national bill to repeal Hyde was introduced in Congress last year, and that goal was added to the Democratic party’s platform for the first time ever. After 40 years of Hyde, expect to hear a lot more about it.