The First of Many Victims of Hyde
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) applauds Jon O’Brien’s powerful reflection upon the history of the Hyde Amendment (“The Dirty Truth about the Politics of Publicly Funded Abortion,” Vol. XXXVI, No. 2). I was born in 1976—the year that the Hyde Amendment was first passed. My whole life, I’ve watched antichoice lawmakers pass abortion coverage restrictions year after year.
I talk to Latinas every day who live with the injustice of coverage bans. Latinas and other women of color are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy and less likely to be able to pay for an abortion out of pocket. When politicians deny coverage for abortion care, the harm falls hardest on low-income families, people of color, immigrant women and youth. Half of the people enrolled in Medicaid are people of color. Studies have shown that a woman who seeks an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who is able to get an abortion. Sometimes, tragedy happens as a result.
Rosie Jiménez, a 27-year-old Latina college student and single mother, was six months away from graduating with a teaching credential—a ticket to a better life for her and her five-year-old daughter—when she sought abortion care. Under the Hyde Amendment, she was denied Medicaid coverage of her abortion. Unable to raise the money to pay for the procedure out of pocket, she turned to an unsafe and illegal procedure. On October 3, 1977, Rosie died of septic shock, the first known victim of the Hyde Amendment, and a painful reminder that legal abortion means little to a woman without the ability to pay for it.
We cannot allow another life to be lost or justice to be further denied due to the Hyde Amendment. Thankfully, we are seeing the tide turning with the CAARE Coalition and the All* Above All campaign, efforts that unite individuals and organizations to lift the bans that deny abortion coverage. We have seen the EACH Woman Act, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California, win the support of more than half of the House of Representatives in seven months. I believe we will soon see an end to the unjust denial of abortion coverage through the activism and leadership of those most impacted, including low-income women, communities of color and LGBTI individuals. Let’s turn a new page in history to one of dignity, autonomy and justice.
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)
New York, NY