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The U.S. Has Made It Nearly Impossible For Low-Income Women To Have An Abortion

Anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2016. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE
Anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2016. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

The majority of countries with liberal abortion laws rely on public funding to help patients afford the cost of an abortion, according to a new report published in the journal Contraception. This makes the United States, which has an amendment strictly prohibiting any federal dollars from backing abortion services, a global outlier.

The report, conducted by the same group of researchers responsible for informing the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Texas’ anti-abortion law, focused on 80 countries that met criteria for having “liberally interpreted abortion laws.” The researchers found that 34 countries offer full funding for abortion — including Australia, France, Denmark, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, and other developed countries. The U.S. was one of the ten countries that only cover abortion in “exceptional cases.”

The U.S.’ decades-old Hyde Amendment only allows public funds to cover abortion costs for these “exceptional cases” — when the procedure is the result of rape or incest, endangers the life of the woman, or has resulted in fetal impairment. Any other abortion procedures must be paid for out-of-pocket, effectually barring low-income women from accessing an abortion.

“In the United States, low-income women are at significantly higher risk of unintended pregnancy, yet abortion is covered by Medicaid only in exceptional cases, and abortion coverage was restricted under the recent health reform law,” the report reads.

This barrier may force women to take measures into their own hands.

“Women attempting to self-induce abortion in the United States cited the high cost of the procedure in a clinic as one of the motivating factors in their decision.”

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This report comes a week before the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Philadelphia, as restoring taxpayer funding for abortion — typically controversial — has become a surprise focus of the presidential election. For the first time ever, the DNC’s 2016 platform calls for repealing Hyde. During the campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders promised they would repeal the Hyde Amendment if elected.

“Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all,” Clinton said at a January campaign event in New Hampshire.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has yet to directly address his stance on the amendment, but experts question his understanding of the policy.