Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), author of the law that prohibits the use of federal money for abortion services, announced on Monday that he will retire at the close of this term after more than 30 years in office. Rep. Hyde is widely known as the creator of the Hyde Amendment of 1976, passed just three years after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. The Hyde Amerndment excludes abortion from the health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid. Currently, the federal Medicaid coverage of abortions is limited to cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman. According to the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), 33 states have adopted their own version of the Hyde Amendment, disallowing the use of state Medicaid funding for abortions as well.
NNAF released a report last week which considered the negative effect of the Hyde Amendment, stating that up to one of every three women who would choose to have an abortion if Medicaid covered the expense will instead be forced to carry the pregnancy to term because they cannot afford the procedure on their own. The report, titled “Abortion Funding: A Matter of Justice,” stresses that the Hyde Amendment particularly affects access to abortion for women of color, young women, and rural women.
Pro-choice activists have long contended that improving access to abortion under Medicaid could curb unsafe, illegal abortions among poor women. In 1977, Rosie Jimenez became the first victim of the Hyde Amendment. Jimenez was a poor, single mother saving money for college who decided to have a back alley abortion instead of using her tuition money so that she could some day make it off welfare and support herself and her daughter on her own.