Why I DCAF: Hyde Edition

affordableabortionThis week marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid recipients from using their benefits to pay for abortion care in many states. Our volunteers are sharing the stories of why our work is vital in the face of these restrictions. Today, case manager Lauren W. shares what she sees on our helpline.

Abortions are expensive. Really, really expensive — in my time as a DC Abortion Fund volunteer, I have worked with patients whose procedures will cost anywhere from $300 to $18,000. Even the lowest-cost procedures at the earliest stages of pregnancy can pose an insurmountable burden for people with no incomes, people with other high-cost medical needs, and people who live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Now, most medical care is expensive. That’s why most people have or try to have health insurance, which is supposed to help cover the high cost of care so that people can stay healthy. For people who can’t afford health insurance, we have Medicaid, which has serious flaws but still provides an important safety net for people in difficult financial situations. Medicaid should be health insurance that people can rely on for their basic medical needs, including abortions. Thanks to Henry Hyde and other anti-choice politicians, however, they can’t.

Rep. Hyde created what it is now known as the Hyde Amendment, an unjust policy that has been in place for the past 40 years. This federal budget rider, and others like it, prevents Medicaid, CHIP, and Medicare enrollees; federal employees and their families; Peace Corps volunteers; members of the military and their families; users of the Indian Health Service; DC residents; and people held in federal jails, prisons, and immigration detention facilities from using their health insurance for abortion care.

When I learned about these unjust policies, I was angry. I wanted to stand in solidarity with people in the DC area, the community I love and call home, who could get the abortion care they needed if only their health insurance would cover it. That’s why I became a case manager for the DC Abortion Fund.

When I take my helpline shifts, I hear from my patients that they are frustrated and worried that they won’t be able to pull together the money they need to cover their abortion while still providing for their children, their family members, and their own basic needs, like food and housing. Recently, I worked with a patient who apologized to me for spending $15 on food for her children, and was short of the goal she had set for herself. She isn’t the one who should be apologizing — the members of Congress who support the Hyde Amendment every year are the ones in the wrong. If the Hyde Amendment weren’t in play, this mother could get the care she needed and provide adequate food for her young children. Instead, she’s forced to scrimp on food and spend many hours on the phone working to get the money together to pay for her abortion so she can end a pregnancy that isn’t right for her or her family.

No one should ever be forced to choose between the medical care they need and feeding their kids. That’s why I am a proud DCAF volunteer and why I support an end to the Hyde Amendment.

By volunteer Lauren W. Image via Repeal Hyde Art Project.