Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has had it with the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision that bars federal funds from being used to cover the cost of an abortion unless necessary to save the pregnant person's life or in cases of rape or incest. Days after criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden for his past support of the measure, Ocasio-Cortez launched a Hyde Amendment repeal petition on Saturday.
"It's not the 70s anymore. This is 2019, and none of our leaders should be willing to stand by a policy that disproportionately harms low-income Americans and people of color just to suit the interests of anti-choice zealots," The Hill reported Ocasio-Cortez wrote in an email to supporters. "That ends now. We're going to fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and let people access the care that they need."
The New York representative encouraged those who "stand for repealing the Hyde Amendment" to sign their name to her petition.
Despite not being a permanent law — it's actually a budget rider that gets attached every year to appropriation bills — the Hyde Amendment has been around for more than 40 years. First passed in 1976 following the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, it works to restrict Medicaid from covering abortion services except in cases of incest, rape, or the endangerment of the pregnant patient. As a result, it's known to disproportionately affect low-income people, especially people of color, according to the Center for American Progress.
"The Hyde Amendment and similar restrictions perpetuate a system of inequality in which access to safe, legal abortion care is dependent on social factors such as income and race and ethnicity," the Center for American Progress reported in 2016. "Because low-income women and women of color are more likely to access their health care through government-sponsored health insurance programs such as Medicaid, they bear the brunt of the limitations imposed on certain health services."
In fact, research shows that restrictions in affordable abortion care can have a serious economic impact on women. In 2012, Think Progress reported that a Global Turnaway Study from the University of California, San Francisco, had found that women denied access to safe and legal abortion services end up being three times more likely to end up below the poverty line within the following two years.
Earlier in the month, Ocasio-Cortez had publicly criticized Biden, one of Democrats' many 2020 presidential hopefuls, for claiming to have "the most progressive record of anybody running." In an interview with The Young Turks, Ocasio-Cortez singled out Biden's support of the Hyde Amendment specifically. "I'm sorry but if you're going to come out and say you support the Hyde Amendment, which prevents us from funding clinics like Planned Parenthood, that's not progressive," USA Today reported she said.
Days after Ocasio-Cortez's criticism — and intense scrutiny and pressure from reproductive rights groups as well as his 2020 Democratic rivals — Biden announced he "can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code," the Hill reported. The former vice president went on to say he believed "health care is a right."
According to NPR, Ocasio-Cortez's petition to repeal the Hyde Amendment comes just a few days before the House is expected to vote on an appropriations bill that, if passed, would extend the legislative provision for another years.