The Hyde Amendment Hurts Black & Brown Women The Most — & We Need To Repeal It Now

Ayanna Pressley

This op-ed was written by U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (California), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), and Jan Schakowsky (Illinois).

For more than four decades, the Hyde Amendment has banned access to abortion for low-income people receiving healthcare through Medicaid. And for the 43 years that it has been in place, the harm has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color, perpetuating cycles of poverty and economic inequality.

We can no longer ignore calls for policies that affirm that abortion care is healthcare, and healthcare is a fundamental human right which must be guaranteed to all.  

When Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Jan Schakowsky began working to repeal Hyde years ago and first introduced the EACH Woman Act in 2015, our fight was a lonely one. Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez join the fight in Congress as part of the first-ever pro-choice majority in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. Collectively, our lives span decades of tireless organizing and advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable and those whose voices too often go unheard in the powerful halls of Congress. 

Last week, in partnership with the thousands of women of color and young people across this country organizing in their communities and mobilizing in the streets to repeal Hyde, we filed an amendment to finally repeal the Hyde Amendment from the annual funding bill that will be considered on the House floor this week.

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the national uprising against white supremacy and anti-Black state violence, has served as a stark reminder of the deadly consequences of the longstanding systemic racism that has permeated every aspect of our society, including our healthcare system. These connected crises have disproportionately robbed our nation of Black and Brown lives. 

If ever there were a moment to end the Hyde Amendment, this is it. We now know that Black and Latinx pregnant women are more likely to be exposed to and die from COVID-19. We know that women of color, especially Black women, experience disproportionately high maternal and infant mortality rates. Abortion bans, including insurance coverage bans, perpetuate systems of oppression, anti-Black racism, and white supremacy that target people of color, especially Black women, and limit their ability to thrive in their own communities. 

Reproductive justice is a racial justice issue, and there can be no racial justice, economic justice, or gender justice so long as the Hyde Amendment remains.

Reproductive justice is a racial justice issue, and there can be no racial justice, economic justice, or gender justice so long as the Hyde Amendment remains.

Repealing the Hyde Amendment isn’t a radical idea — a majority of the public agrees with lifting abortion coverage bans. It’s clear that people across this country believe that the amount of money an individual has should not determine whether they can access comprehensive healthcare services, including abortion care. 

As pro-choice Democrats, we must legislate and vote like lives depend on it, because they do. We must speak out and actively dismantle this racist and discriminatory policy. Black and Brown people should not have to continue waiting for their humanity and freedoms to be recognized.

Make no mistake: With women of color and allies leading the way in communities and statehouses across the country and right here in Congress, the Hyde Amendment’s days are numbered. 

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Today: a human development major in New York who pays $23,000 a year for tuition and spends some of her money this week on a frog statue.Major: Human Development  Age: 19 University Size: 14,000 University Location: New York State, but I am currently living at home in NYC Salary/Allowance: $200/month from my grandparents Yearly Cost Of Tuition: $23,000 (My grandparents give me $10,000 per school year, and I pay the rest with loans) Student Loans Total: $11,000, currently (I have only completed one year of college) Net Worth: $17,185 in personal savings (including $4,356 from unemployment over the summer) Pronouns: She/her Monthly Expenses Rent: $550 (I have an apartment with my roommate by my university, but I currently live at home due to Coronavirus. I pay for this myself.) WiFi: $15 Utilities: $35 Health Insurance: On my mom’s work plan Cell Phone: My mom paysWas there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s degree at a university in New York State. My grandparents pay $10,000 yearly and I pay the remainder ($13,000) myself through loans. Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances? I grew up pretty aware of my family’s financial issues. I always knew it was the major stress in our family. It wasn’t something we could hide. My parents taught me to be frugal. What was your first job and why did you get it? My first official job was at a salad restaurant (cashier and food service) in 2018. I dropped out of my regular high school and switched to online school so I could get a job. I never got an allowance. I wanted to do fun stuff with my friends, but I knew my mom couldn’t afford to give me money. I also wanted to start saving for college and hopefully do some traveling. Did you worry about money growing up? I always worried about money. 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I am still not 100% financially independent because my grandparents pay for part of my school bills. My grandparents are my safety net and I can always come live at home if needed. Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain. In December 2019, my grandmother started sending me $200 a month. They sold their house, so this money is from that. Day One8 a.m. — Yeah, I know. A college student on summer break waking up at 8. I have no alarms set and I would love nothing more than to sleep in with leisure, but nonetheless my needy cat begins meowing. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a morning person, but jeez, my two-year-old cat needs more attention than an infant. I start off my mornings making a smoothie bowl with homemade granola — a quarantine creation that I have truly mastered. 9 a.m. — Every Monday, I certify my unemployment benefits, so I do that first thing. 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I haven’t been able to do my main source of exercise, trapeze (aerial acrobatic dance), because of COVID-19 so I have lost almost all of my strength (if my trapeze teacher is reading this, I am soooo sorry). 1 p.m. — Workout is done and I am aggressively hungry. Another perk of being sent back home is being able to enjoy my mom’s saag. I make myself a bowl of tofu saag over lettuce and chow down. One activity that has saved me in quarantine is going to the park near my house and soaking up some sun. My friend joins me and we chat and listen to some music. 5 p.m. — The sunsets have been particularly beautiful this summer, and my friends and I love to watch them so I walk the 2.5 miles to meet up with them. I bring my wallet with me because I know I’ll get thirsty or hungry at some point. 6:30 p.m. — And there she is. In all her glory. The Mr.Softee truck. I know what my heart desires and it’s a blue raspberry dipped cone. Do I feel instantly sick? Yes. Is it worth $4? 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My morning is as usual; smoothie bowl, coffee, kitten needing attention. 10:30 a.m. — I am feeling motivated to continue with this exercising kick and I am sore from yesterday, so I do a yoga session and some light weightlifting. I am meeting with my friend again to tan in the park, so I make it quick. I have to eat after working out, so I have some leftovers from the take-out that my mom and I got a couple of nights ago.12 p.m. — I purposefully leave my wallet at home when I go to meet up with my friend, N., because I knew the ice cream truck is going to swing by. But then N. starts talking about iced coffee and suggests we hit up the Starbucks on my block. I haven’t had Starbucks since February, and though it isn’t my first choice, it sounds so delicious. I run back to my apartment and grab my wallet. We excitedly ordered our iced coffees and lightly flirt with the cashier. I don’t know if saying “Thank you so much! 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As ambitious women in our early twenties, we spent a lot of our time chatting about how we hoped to make our mark on the world. At the time, I was working to become a professor and she was a consultant with big plans to climb the corporate ladder.Occasionally, our conversations meandered to the topic of how children—if we had them—would fit into the equation. The vast majority of people will eventually become parents: 86 percent of American women will give birth at some point in their life. But like many of our peers, Luciana and I did not feel compelled to follow the most common path; neither of us assumed that parenthood was a foregone conclusion.As we got manicures or went out for a drink, we would wrestle with the question of whether we wanted children at all and if so, when. As it turned out, we had very different impulses. I was in a rush to get pregnant before I turned thirty-five, the age at which everybody from the Mayo Clinic to my mom said my fertility would plummet. 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(They are apparently all the rage with preschoolers.)Luciana and I were not the only ones who stuck closely to the family plans we had concocted in our twenties. This is, in fact, a common pattern. A 2009 study tracking the same group of American women over forty years found that by their early twenties, most women had a very clear sense of how many children they wanted. And shockingly, the majority of them managed to execute their vision with stunning precision: 67 percent said they wanted two children and gave birth to two babies. Twelve percent wanted three or more children and accomplished that. A smaller group—4 percent—started out wanting two but ended up having one or none at all. For that last group, fertility issues and life events such as getting an advanced degree prompted them to change their plans.Since the plans we make in our twenties carry so much weight, it makes sense to spend time thinking about what kind of family will make you happiest. We’re fortunate to have more options for creating families than any other generation in history. Here are the decisions before you: First, you should figure out if you want children at all or if you would prefer to skip parenthood. If you decide you do want children, you should consider whether you want biological children or whether you will create a family through adoption, fostering, or surrogacy. And finally, if you decide you want biological children, you can ponder when to have them, since there are trade-offs to having children earlier or later in life.It’s valuable to consider your ideal path early, because it will influence other decisions in your life. If you are certain you want a big family or know you don’t want children, for instance, you can pick a life partner who shares this goal. If you’re already in a serious relationship, you can start a conversation with your significant other about whether you’re on the same page and how to work toward common ground. If you’re sure you want kids, you might want to take advantage of the years before they arrive to travel or pursue career goals. (Take it from me! Climbing Machu Picchu will be much harder with a toddler!)While you’re thinking all this through, remember that not everything is within our control. Things don’t always go according to plan. You might get pregnant unexpectedly. On the flip side, you may have trouble conceiving when you start trying. It might take longer than you hope to find someone to start a family with. All of this will force you to be flexible and resilient. You may have to go back to the drawing board and imagine a different family than the one you had in mind in your early twenties.But here’s the thing: there is no one formula for creating a happy family. There are many ways to cultivate a network of love and support that will carry us through our lives.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?