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How the US keeps poor people from accessing abortion

The 2020 US election could decide the fate of a more than 40-year-old ban on abortion funding.

For the past 44 years, every US Congress and president have approved a federal budget that includes a ban on federal funding for abortion services, except in extreme cases like rape, incest, and a life-threatening situation for the child-bearer. It’s known as the Hyde Amendment, and even politicians who support abortion access generally have a history of voting in favor of it to get spending bills passed.

The politics of abortion access in this country have evolved since the introduction of the Hyde Amendment. Progressive Democrats have long been critical of it for singling out Medicaid recipients, who are disproportionately poor and people of color. Presidential candidate Joe Biden supported the Hyde Amendment until 2019, attributing his reversal to the changing landscape of US abortion access.

Today, abortion access largely depends on the politics of the state you live in. Because of the Hyde Amendment, it also depends on how much money you have. Banning federal funding for abortion services primarily affects people who rely on Medicaid for their health care: people who are living close to the poverty line in the US or are disabled. This has the effect of preventing some of the country’s most vulnerable people from accessing abortion services, since they are the least likely to be able to afford an out-of-pocket expense.

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