Update 9/29: The resolution passed! Philadelphia just officially became the 11th city to pass a resolution calling for an end to the Hyde Amendment.
Abortion was not always banned from Medicaid coverage.
Back in 1973, when the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade enshrined access to abortion as a constitutional right, the federal Medicaid program covered abortion as standard part of reproductive healthcare.
A few years later, Henry Hyde, a conservative lawmaker from Illinois, was searching for ways to prevent women from accessing abortion.
“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,” Hyde said in 1977, while working on federal legislation that came to be known as the Hyde Amendment. “Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the… Medicaid bill.”
The Hyde Amendment was challenged in court. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 vote that the Hyde Amendment did not violate the constitutional rights of women on Medicaid. The four dissenting judges wrote scathing opinions.
Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “The Hyde Amendment is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.”
“In the abstract, of course, this choice is hers alone,” wrote Justice Brennan. “But the reality of the situation is that the Hyde Amendment has effectively removed this choice from the indigent woman’s hands.”
Today, decades after the Hyde Amendment was passed into law—and as the anti-choice strategy of targeting low-income women and women of color with targeted abortion clinic bans–there is more momentum than ever to overturn it.
Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act, introduced in Congress in 2015, ensures coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured.
Last week, Philadelphia Councilmembers Cindy Bass, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Bill Green, Kenyatta Johnson and Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez introduced a resolution in Philadelphia City Council calling on equal access to abortion.
Specifically, resolution no. 160828 calls on Congress to reinstate abortion service coverage for women enrolled in public insurance programs by enacting the EACH Woman Act. On the state level, it calls on the General Assembly to provide abortion coverage in public insurance programs in Pennsylvania, and to lift a ban on abortion coverage in private insurance plans sold through the state health insurance exchange, legislation that was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett back in 2013.
The hearing takes place at City Hall in Philadelphia at 10AM this morning.
You can watch the livestream here, and follow the news on twitter at #EndHydePHL.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.