Why We DCAF – a Hyde Week post

repealhydeThis 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, including DC. Our volunteers are sharing the stories of why our work is vital in the face of these restrictions. Today, case manager Harum H. shares what she sees on the help line.

When you volunteer as a case manager with the DC Abortion Fund, you get the privilege of having a pretty good look at how the Hyde Amendment strips so many people of their rights to dignified health care.

The people who call DCAF for help paying for their abortion often do so because they have exhausted their other options. They’ve asked for help from their friends, they’ve asked their parents, they’ve pawned their microwaves, they’re picking up extra shifts at work. They fundraise and fundraise and fundraise, but because abortion can cost between $300 and $950 even in the first trimester, sometimes what they’ve fundraised is just not enough. And sometimes they can’t ask anyone because their friends and family are anti-choice. Sometimes they can’t ask anyone because they’re in an abusive relationship. Sometimes they just don’t want to tell anyone they know.

So they call DCAF, and we talk to them on the phone, and they tell us private information about their lives and pregnancies so we can determine how we can help them. Sometimes the abortion costs so much (the price of care goes up exponentially after the first trimester, easily reaching five figures as the pregnancy progresses into the second and third trimester) that DCAF and a combination of other funds can’t help cover the entire funding gap, and the client has to go back to the drawing board and fundraise some more. Ask more people. Pawn more things. Buy a little less food for their families.

Here’s the thing: So many of these people who seek abortion care don’t have to go through all that. If the Hyde Amendment weren’t in place, Medicaid would be able to cover their abortion. Poor people, who are also overwhelmingly people of color, who have never been allowed a seat on the table congressional debates concerning their lives, who should be able to make their own dignified decisions about their health care, are the collateral in the ugly game anti-choice lawmakers play. As U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde himself told his colleagues during a congressional debate in 1977, “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the…Medicaid bill.”

Forty years of having the Hyde Amendment in place is 40 years too long. This shameful amendment needs to end now.

By volunteer Harum H. Image courtesy Repeal Hyde Art Project.