The Hyde Amendment: Unacceptable for More Than 30 Years

The Hyde Amendment: Unacceptable for More Than 30 Years

by Merle Hoffman

It was a major tactical and long-term strategic error of the Pro-choice movement to not have unleashed a massive outpouring of political anger, or a march on Washington, after the initial passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976.

What was unacceptable then, should be even more unacceptable now. The amendment said Medicaid (federal dollars) could not be used to provide coverage for abortions, an assault on reproductive freedom for poor women, disproportionally affecting women of color. The politics of abortion reflects the racism and classism of society in general.

That was more than 30 years ago and today we are in a worse place than we were then. Roe v. Wade has been further eroded and now the Hyde amendment has been extended to all who will get insurance under the new legislation. The executive order issued by President Obama in support of the restrictions in the new legislation in effect establishes Hyde as the standard, a condition demanded by Representative Bart Stupak for supporting the health care bill. (See the executive order for information on further restrictions.)

Had feminists and reproductive rights activists stood with more conviction against the Hyde amendment, perhaps the situation would not be as dire now.

To celebrate the 2010 health care bill is to ignore the devastating effects on all women’s lives this will have. Once again, it is compounding what the Hyde amendment did and it should be totally unacceptable to anyone who cares about women’s reproductive health and lives.

Merle Hoffman, founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center and Publisher of On The Issues Magazine wrote in an editorial that the Hyde Amendment should inspire a call to battle by pro-choice advocates. Its passage had a huge effect on women’s lives, she wrote.

Women’s organizations, feminist groups and pro-choice members of Congress have stepped aside in order to allow millions of Americans to get coverage. Now is the time to push for repealing the Hyde amendment and creating full and equal access for all.

Merle Hoffman is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of On The Issues Magazine and the President and CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center in Long Island City, Queens.

For more information, see:
“Politicized by Henry Hyde” by Merle Hoffman in the Fall 1983 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Repeal Hyde: Even Republicans Know It’s Wrong to Politick with Women’s Lives” by Loretta J. Ross in the Spring 2009 Cafe of On The Issues Magazine.