What Is Going On With Congress, the Budget, and Abortion Access? A GIFsplanation

House Democrats have re-upped the Hyde Amendment—but Rep. Ayanna Pressley and others are fighting back.

[Photo: US Representative Henry Hyde speaks passionately during a hearing.]
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) once said he "certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman." Luke Frazza/AFP via Getty Images

It’s that time of year again, when the U.S. Congress drafts its spending bill and sets its budget priorities. And with Democrats in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, you might think that means there’s money in the budget for abortion access. Unfortunately it’s a little more complicated than that. We explain below. 

Happy Tuesday! Or not, thanks to House Democrats who decided to include a decades-old ban on government funding for abortion, except in limited cases, in next year’s budget.

Yup. They’ve re-upped the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment is a political decision to NOT allow federal family-planning $$$—those are Medicaid dollars—to fund abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

It’s discriminatory and wrong.

The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1977, in response to Roe v. Wade. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) specifically targeted poor women in its passage. Which is fucked up!

“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. “Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the … Medicaid bill.”

He seems REAL nice.

So don’t take our word for it. Take the original sponsor’s word.

The Hyde Amendment is designed specifically to punish poor pregnant patients for being poor, as a way to limit abortion access any which way lawmakers can.

The Supreme Court took a look at the Hyde Amendment way back in 1980 and decided it was just fine: After all, if people on Medicaid needed access to abortion, maybe they should try not being poor next time.

Seriously. The Court said the problem wasn’t Congress trying to restrict abortion access for poor people. The problem with the Hyde Amendment, according to the Court, was that poor people thought they could have their insurance cover abortion.

The result has been a public health policy for abortion and Medicaid funding that hurts poor patients of color the most.

So from its inception, the Hyde Amendment proves what advocates have been saying for years now: All abortion restrictions are racist, even if their sponsors won’t admit it.

But there’s good news! Or at least a silver lining.

The Hyde Amendment isn’t set in stone. Lawmakers could decide NOT to include its spending restrictions in each new budget.

Unfortunately, that once again didn’t happen this year.

However! Not all House Democrats are on board with keeping the Hyde Amendment language in the budget.

Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Super Heroes) have introduced a measure that would repeal the Hyde Amendment once and for all.

As Rep. Pressley said in her Medium post announcing the proposed repeal: “Black and brown people cannot afford to wait another budget cycle for their humanity and dignity to be recognized.”

“In this moment of profound national reckoning, Congress must right the wrongs of the past and make reproductive autonomy a guaranteed right for everyone.” We agree, Rep. Pressley. We agree!

This piece was adapted from a Twitter thread.