Lawmakers who support abortion rights have long fought against policies that restrict women's access to the procedure, such as gestational limits, mandatory waiting periods and physical building requirements on clinics. But one federal anti-abortion policy has remained virtually untouchable for nearly four decades: the Hyde amendment.
The amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortion, has been passed as an attachment to federal budget bills since 1976. The legislation mainly prevents Medicaid recipients from receiving abortion coverage, except in cases of rape and incest or life endangerment, and it has been repeatedly approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress. Democrats often point to the policy as an assurance that no taxpayer funds are being used to pay for abortions, in response to the claim commonly made by anti-abortion activists.
Starting Monday, at least five Democratic members of Congress will participate in a national bus tour that seeks to repeal the Hyde amendment, as well as bans on abortion coverage in the state health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. The Be Bold Road Trip, organized by advocacy groups that represent low-income women, young women and women of color, kicks off in Los Angeles and will hit 12 cities as it travels 10,000 miles. Each stop will feature interactive activities, including a signature wall of support, a "selfie" booth and the reading of abortion stories.
The tour's objective is to build a grass-roots movement dedicated to lifting financial barriers to abortion for women who cannot afford it. The advocates argue that the Hyde amendment and abortion insurance coverage bans discriminate against low-income women and women of color -- particularly the 9 million reproductive-aged women enrolled in Medicaid -- because most private and employer-sponsored insurance plans cover abortion.
“It’s time to secure reproductive justice for all women and to stop the terrible injustice of the Hyde amendment,” said Stephanie Poggi, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. “We will continue to stand united until every woman can make her own decision based on her own circumstances, no matter what her income is.”
The members of Congress who have agreed to participate so far include Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). They will join the bus tour for rallies in their home states.