As a member of an abortion fund and as an activist in the “Hyde – 30 Years is Enough!” Campaign, I demand that the federal government quit denying women essential medical care simply because they are poor. Medicaid is Americans’ commitment to the poor and underserved, and the right to an abortion is one protected by the Constitution. By denying women abortion services under Medicaid, the Hyde Amendment undermines both of these pledges, and does so in ways that directly discriminate against women – above all young women, poor women and women of color. This blatant discrimination is antithetical to American values of justice and equity. We do not allow the government to deny us the right to vote because we are poor, nor are we denied the rights to freedom of religion or of assembly because we cannot afford them. So why is the right to an abortion, one explicitly protected by the Constitution, any different? The answer is because the need for abortion care under Medicaid affects only poor women, whose political voice is more likely to be marginalized and more likely to be ignored by politicians. Therein lies a deep injustice, and it is that laws and regulations meant to preserve the rights and health of Americans have left out certain women because a powerful few have alternative definitions of “rights” and “health” for those women.
Liza is the Senior Research Associate at NLIRH.