The Hyde Amendment Has Obstructed Women's Healthcare for 40 Years. This Is Why It's Time to Repeal It
In January 1973, the Supreme Court delivered the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion throughout the United States. Within three years, however, the pro-life coalition gained major traction and Congress approved the Hyde Amendment, a federal policy — named for Republican congressman and anti-abortion leader Henry Hyde—that banned the use of federal funds to cover abortion costs. Though the Hyde Amendment has been modified slightly since its passage forty years ago — originally it banned all abortions; it has been revised to make exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life — it has, since its inception, disproportionately affected women in poverty — many of whom are women of color.
The prohibition of federal funds to pay for abortion means that women who qualify for Medicaid must pay for such services entirely out of pocket (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, clinic-based abortions can cost between $400 and $550 during the first 10 weeks of gestation; costs rise to $1,100-$1,650 at the 20- or 21-week point). Millions of others rely on government-provided healthcare — including Native American women, federal employees, military personnel, Peace Corps volunteers, and federal inmates. Under Hyde, all of these women are prevented from using their health insurance to pay for abortion — a legal and constitutionally protected medical procedure.
Because the Hyde Amendment is not actually a federal law — it's a budget rider that Congress votes on each year—it could be overturned by simply leaving it out of the annual appropriations bill. In January, Hillary Clinton became the first presidential nominee since Hyde’s passage to vow to override it, and the Democratic Party added the repeal of the Hyde Amendment to its platform in July. Republican nominee Donald Trump declared he would make Hyde permanent and has said he thinks that women who have abortions should receive “some form of punishment.”
As the Hyde Amendment turns forty — and retains its status as a hot-button political issue — Glamour spoke to a reproductive rights activist about her own experience seeking abortion services. Khashae Jackson was a 20-year-old junior at Spelman College when she found out she was pregnant and decided to have an abortion. Since then, she’s become a vocal activist for women's health and works closely with the 1 in 3 Campaign, a grassroots advocacy group that works to end the stigma that surrounds abortion — and repeal the Hyde Amendment. Here, Shae — who is currently finishing her degree at Spelman — shares her story. As told to Maggie Mallon.
It started way, way before I realized that I was pregnant. I woke up one morning and had a severe pain in my leg, one that was diagnosed as a deep vein thrombosis. In plain terms, I had a blood clot in my vein that could go all the way up to my heart — one that could have killed me. The cause of my deep vein thrombosis was believed to be the high dosage of estrogen in the contraceptive pill I had recently started taking after switching birth control methods. I was advised to stop taking my birth control immediately and was given blood thinners for treatment. My insurance partially covered the cost of my medication but not my hospital visit. My medication and hospital visit resulted in a huge financial burden, and the bills soon started piling up.
It was a few months later that I realized I was pregnant. It came at such an inopportune time. I was 20. I was a junior at Spelman College. I was living off campus. I had to deal with bills: rent, medical bills, utilities, phone bills. It didn’t seem possible for me to bring someone else into this world when I had my future to think about. That’s why I was in college in the first place: For my future. How could I consider a whole other person’s future and their health when I couldn’t even take care of my own?
My boyfriend at the time had just received a tuition refund check from his college, and that’s how we were able to fund the abortion care. It came about from luck. If he hadn’t received the check, I would have had to go to my family, confront the judgment that came from them, be scorned for life for this one situation, and somehow scrape up the amount that I needed (which was a little over $500).
I turned to a friend of mine — who is a reproductive rights activist and works with 1 in 3 — and she gave me information about a Planned Parenthood on the outskirts of Atlanta. Fortunately, I had a good support base on campus, but I always thought it was interesting that I didn’t first feel like I needed to go to the health center on campus, an all-black women’s health care center on campus, in order for me to find assistance and resources.
I only told two of my friends — my two best friends (one of them being the person who referred me to Planned Parenthood and works with 1 in 3) — about the procedure and it wasn’t broadcast in any way. We spoke about it in code: They asked, “Hey, did you do it today?” and I replied with “Yeah, it happened.” I didn’t feel like we could actually say it out loud. When I saw them after the procedure, I tried my best to look normal and be a part of activities on campus because I felt like I had just done something wrong. Not because I thought I made a bad decision, but because I was worried about the negative things others would say or think, or the judgments they would make.
One of the people whose reactions I was most worried about was my mother. She’s very religious and I dreaded what she would say: That I was careless; that I was out here frivolously having intercourse; that you never hear about anyone else getting an abortion. I decided to tell her when we were driving home from Spelman after the spring semester. I was driving, so I figured it was better for me to be in control of the car than her — in case she had a bad reaction. When I told her, surprisingly, she was very accepting and received the news with a lot of love and reassurance. Even though she is religious, she’s also very open.
She told me that she, too, had not only had one abortion but two, and that surprised me. It was in that moment that I realized, Wait, you’ve had one but we’ve never even talked about it. Who else has had one and has never talked about it and never thought to share their story? So now I’m sharing mine. Abortion is more common that we think, and we can all work toward destigmatizing it.
I have to point out the fact that without my boyfriend receiving that refund check, there was no guarantee that I would've had that abortion care that I needed. There was no guarantee that I could have gotten any help in paying for my procedure. It went smoothly because of luck. No one should be going through this hoping that they get a little bit of luck. That’s not how healthcare works. That’s not how it should work. Our government should protect our rights as women to do whatever we need to do with our bodies in order for us to take care of the future.
I go to school at a historically black — and all women's — college. Over the last 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has been implemented to directly target low income women, people of color, and young people. I truly hope that Hillary Clinton follows through with her promise to repeal Hyde, considering its impact on certain communities. Repealing it would alleviate people’s financial stress, which they don’t need in the first place as they’re trying to become parents.
For me, it is imperative that I share my story and make it known that all women have reproductive rights, rights that are currently under attack. One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and we need to normalize this type of healthcare. We need to have more freedom with our insurance so we can have more control over our bodies and what does or does not happen to them. My abortion does not define me. It was the right decision at the right time, and it’s important that people can be free to make these choices.
More From Glamour:
• Why It’s Important That the Presidential Candidates Talk About Abortion at the First Debate
• This Woman Was Denied Care for Her Dislodged IUD for the Worst Reason
• Teen Pregnancy Is Down, and There Is a Simple Reason
• Let's Reiterate: Voting in This Election Will Definitely Affect You
Photo Credit: Getty Images