Reclaiming Our Rights: Going Proactive to End Discriminatory Abortion Restriction


All* Above All

I turned thirty-eight this year. This month the Hyde Amendment will also be thirty-eight, and since its passage, we have seen a growing number of abortion restrictions proposed and enacted across the country.

The Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976, restricts abortion coverage for the young people, women and families most in need. It prevents federal dollars from being used to cover abortion. And while there is an exception in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant woman, it is enforced irregularly. There is no health exception to this policy for women covered by federal insurance plans. 

We have watched Congress pass this amendment year after year, for thirty-eight years. For nearly four decades we have watched this restrictive policy beget new anti-abortion, anti-women and anti-sex ballot measures, amendments, and legislation. We take on these fights one by one, state by state, defending the right to control our bodies. We win some, and we lose some.

While these fights are important, as a larger strategy, it is reactive and time-consuming. Furthermore, this reactive posture puts reproductive justice advocates perpetually on the defensive—so we’re through with that strategy.

Enough is enough. Last week, hundreds of young people across the country joined a new national effort to change the conversation from reactive to proactive. Covering nearly 10,000 miles and visiting twelve cities, eight states, the All* Above All Be Bold Road Trip mobilized a diverse array of young people to stand up to the avalanche of attempts to disenfranchise them and their decision-making. The road trip is one strategy to bring grassroots power and energy to cities across the nation. We’ve engaged hundreds of activists who are sick of politicians meddling in their health care decisions for cheap political points.

All Above All

The debate over abortion access is longstanding, and all around the country people are fighting back regressive policies that would continue to chip away at our steadily diminishing access to reproductive health care. Now we are taking matters into our own hands. Last year, more than fifteen organizations joined URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity to come together and made a commitment not just to defend against the tidal wave of restrictions, but to work together to actually move forward in securing support in favor of coverage of abortion by Medicaid, the health-care program funded by the federal government and the states for lower-income patients. 

The Hyde Amendment impacts not only the families who use Medicaid, but also women who qualify for other government-sponsored insurance programs, including federal employees, Peace Corps Volunteers, Native American women who use the Indian Health Service, women in federal prison, military personnel, and veterans who receive coverage from the Veterans Administration.

This policy, so clearly unfair and extreme, puts abortion out of reach for so many who need it. And so, we are joining together in a national movement to restore funding for abortion care. Cities across the country are leading that charge, both through grassroots efforts and local government action.

From Travis Country, Texas, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York to San Francisco, local governments all over the country are seeking to pass resolutions advocating for coverage of all pregnancy-related care, including abortion. The Seattle City Council recently passed a resolution urging President Obama and Congress to repeal all federal bans on public coverage of abortion.

We share this proactive vision with young voters46 million strong for this election. For us, abortion access for low-income women is an issue where economic injustice, racism and gender oppression come together. Together, we realize that it will take a focused, concerted effort to make lasting cultural and policy change. Together, young activists, women of color, parents, students, professionals, people from Lawrence, Kansas, to El Paso, Texas, and from Long Beach, California, to Athens, Georgia, are fighting for the full ability to control our bodies. We are fighting for respect. We are fighting for the right to chart our own paths to success. We are fighting for our health. We are fighting so that we are not just healthy but happy, not just well, but thriving.

As the Be Bold Road Trip ended last week in our nation’s capital, we know this is only the beginning. We are ready to be proactive and change the tide to overturn these restrictive policies so that every person who needs it can have coverage for a full range of pregnancy care, including abortion.

Thirty-eight years is long enough.