By Barbara Alvarez
Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is part of a coalition formally urging President-elect Joe Biden to do away with federal abortion funding restrictions.
A group letter organized by All* Above All, a reproductive justice organization formed in 2014 to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, is calling on Biden to “show bold leadership” and make good on his campaign promise to repeal the amendment during the 2022 fiscal year. Among the 150 other groups signing the letter are the Center for Reproductive Rights, Guttmacher Institute, Global Justice Center, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.
FFRF has long spoken out against the Hyde Amendment, first enacted by Congress in 1976, which cruelly denies abortion coverage to low-income patients receiving federal medical assistance except in the rarest of circumstances. Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF’s principal founder, spoke out against the Hyde Amendment in in her booklet, “Why Abortion? The Myth of Choice for Women Who Are Poor.” Gaylor, who as a volunteer administered the Women’s Medical Fund for more than 40 years, believed to be the longest, continuously operating abortion fund in the nation, lamented the Hyde Amendment’s dire consequences for women of lower socioeconomic status, including even in cases of fetal abnormality: “Because of the Hyde Amendment, many very needy women have had to carry these pregnancies to term, at risk to themselves, producing an infant that will die at birth or soon after, or may suffer from a devastating, degenerative illness causing great anguish to the child and those around it. Even when everyone involved knows that continuing such a pregnancy can only result in tragedy, the dictum holds — there is no public funding for these women.”
The Hyde Amendment, which was introduced by ultra-Catholic Rep. Henry J. Hyde, continues to have catastrophic consequences for women across the country. Women on Medicaid are ineligible for abortion coverage even if it is recommended by the doctor or if the pregnancy complicates the woman’s health. Due to its restrictions on federal funds for abortions, women in federal prisons, the military, as well as Peace Corps volunteers and Native American women who use Indian Health Services, are ineligible for subsidized abortion care. And while states can opt to pay for abortion care out of their state budget, only 16 states do that. This means that affordable access abortion care in the United States is dependent on the state in which you live.
The Hyde Amendment is rooted in religious motivations. For his draconian legislation, Hyde was praised by Catholic leaders around the country.
Access to Freethought Now! is free and we never run ads. But we would sure appreciate your help keeping it that way.
For low-income women, an unwanted pregnancy may not only be life-threatening, but also financially destructive. Abortion care can cost anywhere between $500 and $3,000. And women of color are disproportionately more likely to bear these heavy out-of-pocket expenses. Just over half of 7.5 million women of reproductive age with Medicaid coverage are women of color who live in states that do not cover abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization.
There is no scientific or medical reason to restrict abortion access. In fact, the World Health Organization describes high costs, restrictive laws and poor availability as barriers to safe abortion care. Repealing the Hyde Amendment would be a step in the right direction to making abortion care more accessible, equitable and safe for women, regardless of socioeconomic status.
And in the meantime, consider supporting abortion funds like the volunteer Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin. The fund annually helps an average of 900-1,000 Wisconsin residents obtain affordable abortion care. Due to the pandemic, the need for help is currently much greater, with the fund already serving more than 900 individuals this year through October. Please make a tax-deductible donation here.
Barbara Alvarez is from Madison, Wis., and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a Ph.D. in library and information sciences with a minor in gender and women’s studies. Alvarez was a major winner in last year’s FFRF essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle. She is FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing.