RMC Responds: Federal Funding of Abortion (Or, Rather, the Lack Thereof)

ImageThis week, one Facebook commenter expressed an opinion that we hear echoed quite often, saying that when a woman seeks an abortion, that is her choice but “she should pay for it herself… NOT taxpayers.” Another commenter correctly pointed to the Hyde Amendment in response, and we would like to take this opportunity to further explain the ban on abortion funding.

To clarify, the federal government has explicitly banned the use of government money to cover abortion costs.  In 1977, several years after Roe v. Wade established choice as a constitutional right, legislation known as the Hyde Amendment changed the landscape of abortion funding.  Sponsored by a senator from Illinois, the Hyde Amendment ended any federal funding of abortion coverage.  The most significant portion of this ban applies to Medicaid coverage, which had previously included abortion care as part of health plans for lower income individuals.

Over the years, further provisions have altered and expanded the federal prohibition of abortion funding; today, about a dozen laws exist that address this issue.  Military health plans, for instance, exclude any coverage for members, retirees, or dependents, even those serving overseas.  Federal employee health plans, as well, cannot include abortion coverage, as is also the case with plans for Native Americans and Peace Corps volunteers.  Many of these laws exclude coverage even when the life of the mother is in danger.

Recently, the President agreed to continue compliance with the Hyde Amendment as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.  An executive order now outlines that as the new health care system goes into effect, abortion services will still be excluded from any coverage.

The major source of public funding for many healthcare clinics, Title X, also complies with the Hyde Amendment.  These funds are allotted to help lower income families receive critical healthcare and preventative services, but none of the money ever covers abortions.

State healthcare funding varies throughout the country, though much of the nation is largely consistent with federal policy.  Almost three-quarters of states have prohibitions of abortion funding in compliance with the Hyde Amendment, meaning that state contributions to Medicaid never cover any abortion services.

In recent years, a number of bills have been introduced in Congress that claim to restrict abortion funding, such as the “No Federal Funding for Abortion Act” of 2011.  The fact is, however, that federal money does not fund any abortion services.  Federal funds directed to health clinics are used for critical services such as cancer and STI screenings, often having a major impact on the lives of low-income women and families.  This is money that actually helps reduce the number of abortions by improving health and promoting prevention.

Lawmakers across the nation are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars implementing restrictions on women’s rights and then fighting for unconstitutional laws in court.  The reality is, though, that choice is a constitutionally protected right, and one that does NOT infringe on others by using taxpayer money.

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