The month of November is National Native American Heritage Month.
Last week, President Biden issued a proclamation for this year’s celebration, explaining that this month is a time for us to “recognize the invaluable contributions of Native peoples that have shaped our country and honor the hundreds of Tribal Nations who continue exercising their inherent sovereignty as vital members of the overlapping system of governments in the United States.” This year’s theme is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.”
A way in which we can do that is by demanding that the Hyde Amendment is repealed.
2023 was the 47th anniversary of this religiously rooted legislation. First introduced by staunch Catholic and Illinois Rep. Henry J. Hyde, the amendment has been passed with bipartisan support for nearly 50 years. It is extremely discriminatory, including to Native Americans.
The Hyde Amendment does not allow those who are on Medicaid, in the Peace Corps, serving in the military, or in federal health programs to receive affordable abortion care. This includes those on the Indian Health Services Plan. That means that unless a state covers the cost of an abortion, people may pay anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for care.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s home state of Wisconsin is one of those states that does not cover the cost for abortion care. Wisconsin has 11 federally recognized tribes and nearly 87,000 Native Americans living in the state. Lack of affordable abortion care is a health care gap.
It is necessary to underscore that the Hyde Amendment was introduced by someone who wished to ban abortion because of Catholic convictions. Cruelly, Rep. Hyde found this path as the best way forward in making it as inaccessible as possible to marginalized populations. And now with abortion banned throughout much of the country, it is even more expensive to travel for abortion care. The Hyde Amendment exacerbates these inequities and should be repealed immediately.
We can honor National National American Heritage month by supporting organizations like Indigenous Women Rising who help Native Americans access abortion care. Local abortion funds also help to cover the costs of abortion care.
We can also contact our representatives and demand that they repeal the Hyde Amendment so that all people, including Native Americans, have access to comprehensive (and affordable) reproductive health care. Our secular voices are needed to make this change.