Catholics Join Push to Repeal the Hyde Amendment

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Catholics Join Push to Repeal the Hyde Amendment

Michelle D. Anderson

“The most important myth we are working to expose is that bishops represent whatever Catholic opinion in public policy matters. We wanted to make sure everyone from all walks of life are heard,” said Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, domestic program director at Catholics for Choice.

Catholics for Choice has launched a multi-year public education campaign advocating for the Hyde Amendment’s repeal, as the anti-abortion amendment nears its 40th anniversary.

The Abortion in Good Faith print advertisements revealed last week by the D.C.-based nonprofit organization share the voices of pro-choice Catholics who want abortion care to be accessible for all, regardless of income.

The ads target the Hyde Amendment, which Congress passed on September 30, 1976.

The legislative provision prohibits the use of federal funds, such as those used for federal-state Medicaid programs, from being used to pay for abortion care. The law only allows for extreme exceptions that involve rape, incest, or scenarios where the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

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Catholics for Choice noted Guttmacher Institute data that suggested one in four women who receive Medicaid benefits wouldn’t be able to receive abortion care because of the Hyde Amendment.

Guttmacher this year highlighted that nearly half of abortion patients in the United States live below the federal poverty level.

Just days after the campaign launched, Hart Research Associates released polling data showing that three in four battleground state voters agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for it just because she’s poor.”

The same poll found that most voters in battleground states would support legislation that would allow Medicaid to cover abortion by a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent.

The Good Faith ads, which come in English and Spanish, have appeared in more than 20 local and national publications such as Politico, La Opinión, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The campaign is accompanied by a new website, InGoodFaith.us, which asks visitors to sign a pledge to support the public funding of abortion care.

Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, domestic program director at Catholics for Choice, told Rewire in a phone interview that the organization drew from its relationships with pro-choice Catholics to create the Good Faith ads.

Ratcliffe said many of the campaign participants have spoken out against Vatican and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) policies in their own communities.

“The most important myth we are working to expose is that bishops represent whatever Catholic opinion in public policy matters. We wanted to make sure everyone from all walks of life are heard,” she said.

Ratcliffe said Catholic women use contraception and even seek abortion care at the same rate as non-Catholic women. That’s supported by a Guttmacher Institute analysis published in April 2011.

Longtime Catholic activist, campaign participant, and Pennsylvania resident Linda Pinto, told Rewire that as a grandmother of three girls, she felt compelled to participate in the campaign because reproductive health was under attack.

In her ad, which appeared in the Nation, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pinto proclaims it was because of her Catholic faith—not in spite of it— that she supported women who make conscience-based decisions to have an abortion.

She said public funding for abortion was a Catholic social justice value.

Pinto said she realized in her youth that there was “a different God than the one Catholic Church talks about,” and she began to understand the “primacy of her conscience” in making life decisions.

Catholics for Choice in 2012 released data revealing that many self-identified Catholics were more interested in boosting the economy than “the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States.” Eighty-three percent of Catholic voters surveyed said they did not feel obligated to vote in the way that their bishop urges.

Catholics for Choice last year covered the public funding of abortion in an issue of its official publicationConscience.

The issue featured an interview with noted feminist Katha Pollitt and articles about The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance, or EACH Woman Act, and the detrimental effects the Hyde Amendment has had on underserved women.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the EACH Woman Act in the House of Representatives. The groundbreaking bill, which now has more than 120 co-sponsors, aims to undo the Hyde Amendment.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform for the first time calls for the end of the Hyde Amendment, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she opposes the anti-choice amendment.