Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) plan to introduce the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance, or EACH, Act in Congress on Thursday, calling for the reversal of the Hyde Amendment and guaranteed insurance coverage for abortion.
The landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade has protected a person’s right to a safe and legal abortion since 1973. But many people, especially low-income women and women of color, still face heightened barriers to access the medical procedure due to the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal health insurance programs like Medicaid from covering abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
“This isn’t about what side you’re on in the abortion debate, it’s about equality and opportunity plain and simple,” Duckworth said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “Whatever you think about the procedure, we should all agree that what’s legal for wealthy Americans should not be so inaccessible for Americans of color and low-income Americans.”
The Hyde Amendment — named after former Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, a vocally anti-abortion Republican — was passed in 1976 and has been renewed every year since. Congress has the opportunity to repeal the Hyde Amendment during the federal appropriations process each spring.
“Whatever you think about the procedure, we should all agree that what’s legal for wealthy Americans should not be so inaccessible for Americans of color and low-income Americans.”
Research shows that 1 in 4 low-income women seeking an abortion are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term when lawmakers restrict abortion coverage under Medicaid. Studies also show that a woman denied an abortion is more likely to fall into poverty than a woman who is able to get one.
“Let’s call this amendment what it is: It’s anti-choice and it’s blatantly racist,” Lee said on the Wednesday call. “We know it disproportionately impacts low-income people and women of color. It should never have been signed into law and it’s way past time that it was repealed. The Hyde Amendment has been used by anti-choice politicians to keep abortion care out of the reach for people already marginalized by our health care system.”
The EACH Act has been endorsed by more than 130 national and state abortion rights organizations under the All* Above All coalition. A version of the bill, the EACH Woman Act, was first introduced in 2015 in the House, and before Thursday, the EACH Act had been introduced once in the Senate and three times in the House.
President Joe Biden has expressed his support for repealing the Hyde Amendment, giving abortion rights advocates hope that the policy could be reversed under the new administration.
The repeal of Hyde is a “deeply personal” issue to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who was also on the Wednesday call. She recounted the story of a close college friend who became infertile after undergoing an unsafe abortion; the friend hadn’t been able to obtain a safe and legal abortion due to the out-of-pocket cost.
“Although they might have the right to an abortion on paper, they certainly cannot exercise it,” Murray said of low-income women affected by the Hyde Amendment. “A right on paper but not in practice doesn’t do you much good. And the consequences can be devastating.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue commended the bill and pushed for its passage.
“Thanks to the reproductive justice movement’s dedication and leadership, Congress has the opportunity to bring us one step closer to a world where access to abortion care doesn’t depend on where you live, how you are insured, or how much money you have,” Hogue said in a statement Thursday morning. “Reproductive freedom is not a reality unless we all have the freedom to make decisions about our health and futures with dignity and without interference from politicians.”
CLARIFICATION: This article previously stated that the EACH Woman Act was the original version of the EACH Act. While similar, it is a different iteration of the bill.