Since becoming involved in politics in college, I have met a number of individuals who consider themselves social liberal and fiscally conservative. They are generally supportive of LGBT rights and oppose blatant racial discrimination. Next to Evangelical voters and Tea Partiers, such individuals can appear moderate due to support for lgbt rights and opposition to blatant racism. However, this mentality is still detrimental because those who hold it are opposed to allocating the resources. One of the most glaring examples of this is the Hyde Amendment which turns 40 today.
On September 30, 1976, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding from going to abortions, was passed. After the passage of Roe V. Wade in 1973, this was said to be the first real victory for the anti-abortion movement. This legislation was unprecedented in that this is the first time that federal funds were specifically withheld from any medical procedure. Eventually, congress attached a ban to almost every budget. This law, essentially, made it where women had a right but would have no help in enforcing it if they couldn’t foot the bill themselves.
In the years that have passed, the Hyde Amendment has continuously had a devastating impact on the reproductive liberties on several women, trans men and gender non-binary individuals who can become pregnant. As it currently stands, the federal government a ban on coverage of abortion for people who receive Medicaid, Native American Women who receive Indian Health Services, military service women, women employed by the federal government, Peace Corp Service Members, people in federal prisons and those who receive federal employee or military benefits from husbands or fathers. Additionally, most states have adopted similar bans on Medicaid funding. Currently, on 15 states allow Medicaid funding for abortion procedures. 13 million women nationwide rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. This is a considerable amount of the population who is, for all intents and purposes, being denied the right to exercise a right that it was decided was theirs 43 years ago. Because of economic and racial inequalities, poor women of color are disproportionately impacted — not to mention the fact that 42 percent of women who get abortions are living below the poverty line.
This is, by no means, an attempt to paint the activists and legislators who advocated for the Hyde Amendment as social liberals. Instead, what their efforts did was get the U.S. and most state governments to take a what is referred to as a socially liberal, fiscally conservative position. That is the right to abortion still stood in theory but, in many ways, it became off limits to a great number of women. The Hyde Amendment illustrates, perfectly, how simply legally allowing something is not enough. If it is actually a right, the government needs to take proactive steps to make sure that each and every citizen can exercise it.
In the years since the passage of the Hyde Amendment, there have been some meaningful strides made in undoing its stringency. For instance, in 1981, there was an exception added for cases where the lives of the mothers were in danger or the unborn child was not viable. In 1993, President Clinton expanded the protections to include women who had been victims of rape or incest. This year, for the first time, the Democratic Party has made it part of its agenda to actually repeal the amendment. Only when this happens will America achieve true reproductive liberty.
* This post appeared in medium.com on September 30, 2016.