The Right’s Attack on Roe at 40: The Hyde and Helms Legacy

Monday, January 28, 2013

Originally posted at Truthout on January 25, 2013.
By Malika Redmond

While celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must also mourn the staying power of rhetoric demonizing women who seek reproductive autonomy—especially the young, the poor, rural women, and women of color—and the legislation that blocks their ability to access abortion. Battles over the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are only the latest example, following two earlier victories that targeted these vulnerable populations both at home and abroad: the Helms and Hyde amendments.

The lesser known Helms Amendment to the 1973 Foreign Assistance Act blocks U.S. funds from use for abortion care abroad, even if abortion is legal in that country as in the United States, exporting the right-wing agenda to other countries. In a country like Nepal, which eased its abortion restrictions in 2002, Helms puts up arduous barriers to access by forbidding USAID-funded medical equipment and facilities from use for abortion services.

Back on the home front, the 1976 Hyde Amendment ended federal funding of abortion care through Medicaid, the “largest healthcare program in the United States,” with difficult to exercise rape, incest, and health exceptions. Hyde set in motion the strategy of using legislation to chip away at Roe and deprive poor women (disproportionately women of color) of access to abortion. Thirty-three states replicated the federal amendment, and of the seventeen that use state funds to cover abortion under Medicaid, all but four do so under court order.

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This post is part of Still Wading: Forty years of resistance, resilience and reclamation in communities of color, a blog series by Strong Families commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade.

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