The Center for Reproductive Rights has launched a much-needed attack on the Hyde Amendment — a long-standing law that disallows federal Medicaid dollars from paying for abortion. Hyde is back in the press lately after it was used as the starting point for the abortion “compromise” in the health care bill, which eventually snowballed into the Stupak amendment in the House. Hyde established the baseline rule that abortion should be segregated out from all other medical procedures and not funded with tax dollars, even though the whole thing with tax dollars is that we all pay for things we either don’t like or don’t use, but we also all reap the benefits of whichever social programs we do use, and things like shared roads and fire departments and schools. Hyde, though, is unusual legislation in that it identified a particular (and particularly common) medical procedure and said, “Even though we have this program that helps to pay for medical care for low-income people, we aren’t paying for this one procedure. Poor women can pay for it themselves.”
The impact has been devastating, and it hit women hard long before the latest incarnation of health care reform was on the political map. I used to volunteer for the Haven Coalition, which provided housing for low-income women coming to New York for abortions — before Haven, women were sleeping on subway benches and in parks because they couldn’t afford a place to stay (and I suspect that even with Haven’s volunteer network, many women still do spend their time in New York without shelter). Women come to New York to terminate pregnancies because we allow abortion later than many other nearby (and not-so-nearby) states; for low-income women who rely on Medicaid, affording an abortion means saving and scraping and pawning and borrowing and begging. It takes time. And as they work to get the money together, the pregnancy progresses. There is no single reason why women have second-trimester abortions, but a lot of the stories I’ve heard are some version of “I couldn’t afford it earlier.” Of course, as the pregnancy progresses abortion also gets more expensive. Some states (including New York) cover abortion with state Medicaid dollars, but most don’t. And the federal ban on coverage gives states cover to also refuse to use state funds to fully cover women’s health.
This history came to head when the Stupak Amendment was proposed, but it even set the state for the compromise proposed by Democrats. At no point was there a serious suggestion that the new health care package should cover abortion the same way it covers most other medical procedures. The assumption that abortion coverage was simply off the table is a direct result of the Hyde Amendment.
Thankfully, Hyde is now starting to come under fire. The Center for Reproductive Rights has put out the below video with bloggers and activists (including Jay Smooth, Aimee Thorne-Thompson, Melissa Harris Lacewell, Sarah Seltzer, Jesse Taylor, Amanda Marcotte, Heather Corrina, Allison Kilkenny, Jamie Kilstein, and yours truly) all discussing what we don’t want our tax dollars paying for. You can submit your own video here.
Transcript (thanks Chally!) below the fold.
[Effect as though switching on an old fashioned television]
[Jay Smooth, speaking to camera, with his name and website (illdoctrine.com) at the bottom of the screen. 'Center for Reproductive Justice' is at the bottom right of the screen and remains throughout Smooth's parts of the video.]
Smooth: The Hyde Amendment. We need to talk about the Hyde Amendment.
Since 1976, Congress has tacked the Hyde Amendment onto every annual appropriations bill, blocking access to needed healthcare services for millions of poor women and families. [this paragraph summarised in dot points on screen]
And right now the Stupak and Nelson amendments on this current health care bill try to expand Hyde into the private market, restricting insurance for abortion even when people pay for coverage themselves. [this paragraph summarised in dotpoints on screen again]
Why does this one crowd get to pick and choose on this one thing (that’s totally unjust) while the rest of us never get to pick and choose?
['the views expressed are bloggers' own...' appears at the bottom of the screen]
I mean imagine, in your ideal world, what would you say we shouldn’t spend your tax money on?
[Bloggers appear in rectangular frames with rounded corners on a black screen, with their names in white capital letters below and their websites in grey below their names. When they finish, their images shrink and the next blogger's expands to replace it.]
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen of protectchoice.org: Well I don’t want my tax dollars spent on building a 700 mile fence along the US-Mexico border.
Sarah Seltzer of rhrealitycheck,org: Well I don’t want my tax dollars spent on a wasteful, racist war on drugs.
Jesse Taylor of pandagon.net: You know what I wish the federal government wouldn’t spend money on anymore? Cancelling my favourite public television shows. [lowers voice so that it's more whispery] I miss you.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell of thenation.com and Heather Corinna of scarleteen.com, appearing in separate boxes: I don’t want my tax dollars spent-
Corinna: -on abstinence-only sex education-
Harris-Lacewell: -incarceration rather than education-
Corinna: -corporate federal bailouts.
Jill Filipovic of feministe.us: Well I don’t want my tax dollars spent on corporate farm subsidies.
Amanda Marcotte of pandagon.net: Well I don’t wanna spend my tax dollars on mercenary organisations like Blackwater.
[Allison Kilkenny of allisonkilkenny.com and Jamie Kilstein of WeAreCitizenRadio.com appear in the same shot]
Kilstein: You know what’s really dangerous?
[Kilkenny turns to look at Kilstein]
Kilstein: A woman’s right to choose a safe medical procedure.
[Kilkenny turns back and nods in the direction of the camera.]
Kilstein: Oh wait!
Thorne-Thomsen: Abortion care is healthcare and don’t all women deserve good healthcare?
Smooth: The impact of the Hyde Amendment will be hugely expanded when this healthcare bill adds millions more women and families to Medicaid. So we need to speak out on this right now.
Submit your own video about what you don’t want your tax dollars spent on and help us prove how hypocritical and unfair the Hyde Amendment is. We’ll share some of your best submissions with the world. [On screen: Submit your YouTube vid (up to 20 secs) to: http://reproductiverights.org/youtube.
[stroking cat] For more on the right for reproductive rights worldwide, go to noabortionban.org today. Thank you.
[on screen: noabortionban.org]
[Effect as though switching on an old fashioned television]