"I'm thinking of ways I can fall or what I can do to end this pregnancy," said one woman to an abortion fund counselor. Why? Because she's on Medicaid, and thanks to the Hyde Amendment, her abortion won't be covered.
Here's how a new report from The Center For Reproductive Rights describes this woman's situation:
Unable to attend a job training session due to a public transportation strike in November, she had lost her enrollment in the welfare program, and therefore her income. While she worked with her caseworker to re-enroll, she was evicted from her apartment for failure to pay rent. She and her preschooler were taken in by a friend with five children.
Another advocate described a woman who was in the waiting room, "selling everything in the diaper bag—baby formula, diapers, anything she could find, trying to raise money for her co-pay." All this, despite the fact that state Medicaid is supposed to provide "access to medical services comparable to that enjoyed by more affluent persons."
Justice William Brennan said that the Hyde Amendment "is nothing less than an attempt by Congress to circumvent the dictates of the Constitution and achieve indirectly what Roe v. Wade said it could not do directly," and Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote that it is "designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion." That's as true now as it was 34 years ago when it was passed.
Here's a short video the Center put together to drive home the point that the government is systematically preventing poor women from exercising their constitutionally-protected right to an abortion:
Here are some other staggering facts from the report:
- "In 2008, 69% of women obtaining abortions were either poor or low-income...On average it takes [poor women] two to three weeks longer than other women to obtain one, forcing them to endure more complicated and lengthier later procedures and shoulder significant additional costs." A first trimester abortion cost about $413, on average, in 2006, but at 20 weeks, the cost triples.
- Women are forced by economic circumstance to abdicate their choices over their bodies: "According to studies looking at the impact of the Hyde Amendment, 18–37 % of women who would have obtained an abortion if Medicaid funding were available continue their pregnancies to term."
- As usual, the U.S. sucks in comparison with other wealthy nations. "Twenty-one of the twenty-seven members of the European Union, an additional five European nations and Israel provide funding for abortions through public health insurance or in public health facilities. In Canada, all provinces provide abortion coverage at hospitals and many also cover costs at private abortion clinics."
- "Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of women obtaining abortions who were poor increased by 60%." And we don't even have hard numbers on the post-2008 world, in which the economic situation is far grimmer. We just know from hearing from local abortion funds and activists that it's getting tougher than ever.