CPC Whip Rep. Barbara Lee: End Hyde Now

Read the original in U.S. News & World Report

When I first started my career in the House of Representatives, I worked as a staffer for the great Rep. Ron Dellums, a Democrat representing California's 9th District. Forty years ago, nearly to the day, I was in his office when the Hyde Amendment was attached to the federal budget for the first time.

It was a different time. I was one of only a handful of women, especially African-American women, working on Capitol Hill, and women's rights weren't exactly on the agenda. But the Roe v. Wade victory of a few years prior had given me hope that our country was starting a new chapter, an era of respect for women's personal health care decisions.

You can imagine my frustration with the Hyde Amendment, which made the legal right to abortion essentially meaningless for poor women and women of color by stripping it out of their insurance coverage. I am proud to say that we fought tooth-and-nail against the Hyde Amendment, but unfortunately we could not stop it.

In the nearly 40 years since Hyde was first passed, how many woman have been pushed into back alleys because of it? How many women were pushed further into poverty?

Forty years of Hyde has done terrible harm to women and families, and I'm more determined than ever to finish the work I started so long ago. However we feel about abortion, none of us, especially politicians, should be interfering with a woman's health care decisions just because she is poor. This is discrimination, plain and simple.

After its passage in 1976, Hyde launched a wave of abortion restrictions that has only intensified in recent years. Since 2010, state legislatures have passed an astounding 334 abortion restrictions. These dangerous restrictions have increased the cost of care and have made Hyde even more harmful to low-income women, women of color and students.

Make no mistake, the Hyde Amendment directly targets low-income women and women of color. It's original sponsor proudly said as much on the House floor.

Politicians should not be spending their time trying to make life, particularly access to health care, even more difficult for these women. Politicians have no place in a woman's personal health care decisions.

We know that restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. These women and other women denied an abortion are more likely to fall into poverty than those who received care.

Over the last four decades, Hyde has brought pain and punishment to federal employees and their dependents, our brave women in uniform, female veterans, Native Americans, Peace Corps volunteers and D.C residents. As the list of those impacted by coverage bans has grown, so has the movement fighting back.

Together with All* Above All and other bold organizations, we are back on the offensive. This movement is creating a new political climate where repealing Hyde is not only possible but likely.

Last July, I stood with 70 of my colleagues and introduced the EACH Woman Act. This legislation would lift the coverage bans that prevent women from making the decision that's best for her and her family.

Today, we have more than 120 co-sponsors working to stop politicians from interfering with a woman's personal health care decision. But this movement isn't just members of Congress; it's people and organizations of conscience including abortion funds, labor unions, people of faith, groups representing black, Latino and Asian-American communities and youth organizations who have declared their support.

This movement has come a long way since I was a staffer. I've been fighting the Hyde Amendment for 40 years, and we are finally on the offensive. The current groundswell of support is nothing like I've seen before. I truly believe this is a battle we can win. More than that, it's a battle we must win.