There are many people who say (at least in a hypothetical situation) that abortion wouldn’t ever be a choice for them, but they don’t think anyone should interfere with a woman’s choice to have an abortion. Some of them would call themselves pro-choice. The important thing is that they do not believe their personal feelings need to be reflected in the laws that govern every person in this country. Combine those people with ardent advocates for reproductive freedom, and you get a solid majority in this country.
The problem comes when people think they can put some “reasonable” restrictions on abortion that treat it like something other than health care and make it virtually impossible to access. This is exemplified with one of the most stubborn and damaging restrictions: the Hyde amendment, which prevents the spending of federal funds on abortion, meaning low-income women cannot get the procedure covered under Medicaid.
Christina Cauterucci calls out vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine for this contradiction (emphasis mine):
It’s wonderful that Kaine would never personally terminate a pregnancy, since he cannot get pregnant and will never have to make that decision. But when a politician’s personal beliefs bleed into his positions and legislative decisions, they are no longer personal nor beliefs. They are political actions that affect constituents’ lives and livelihoods.
Hyde has long been an archetypal example of legislators using poor women’s bodies as political battlegrounds. Politicians who support the Hyde Amendment aren’t just trying to keep some women from getting a constitutionally protected medical procedure. They’re entrenching a system that lets rich women do whatever they want with their bodies—which, let’s be honest, they’ll be able to do no matter how severe abortion restrictions get—while poor women’s bodies remain under the custodianship of whichever politicians happen to be in office.
This makes repealing the Hyde Amendment more than just an incremental step toward true reproductive freedom. It’s at the very heart of a movement that’s slowly shifting its paradigm from choice and rights to a broader focus on justice and access. For as long as women’s reproductive health has been legislated by politicians, the reproductive rights movement has delivered the bulk of the gains to wealthy white women, while poor women, women of color, and other marginalized women have been left behind. For the Democratic Party to take economic injustice and gender inequality seriously, it must fight like hell on Hyde.
Abortion is critical healthcare that shouldn’t be only available to the rich. Controlling if and when we have a family is integral to our economic security and the ability to determine our futures, and this is especially true for low-income women. Thanks to the work of reproductive justice activists, we are seeing a shift in this debate. Both major Democratic presidential candidates declared their support for repealing Hyde, something that would have seemed unthinkable not long ago. We must keep the pressure on and make it clear that it is not acceptable to support any regulation that reinforces a two-tiered system and punishes women for being poor.