Over 41 years ago, the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that every woman has a constitutionally protected right to make her own personal medical decisions about when and if to become a mother. For almost as long—nearly 38 years—the Hyde Amendment has undermined Roe v. Wade by barring public funds from covering abortion care, effectively cutting off access for most women enrolled in public government insurance. Many of those most affected are low-income women, women of color, and immigrant women, who already face significant challenges to accessing safe, respectful, timely health care. This isn’t just a matter of reproductive freedom—it’s an issue of racial and economic justice.
Though the Hyde Amendment frames reproductive healthcare as a political bargaining chip, it is in fact a vital part of women’s health care overall. In a country where 99 percent of women who have had sexual intercourse use or have used birth control, and 1 in 3 will seek abortion care at some point during their lives, safeguarding access to these health care services is crucial to every woman’s safety and well-being, and a requirement for building a society in which all people are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their income.
This is why we are proposing a resolution to the Seattle City Council today, Monday, September 8, calling upon President Obama and Congress to overturn all federal bans on public coverage of abortion, and to improve access to public and private insurance coverage for the full spectrum of reproductive health care options.
If we pass this resolution, Seattle will become the first jurisdiction in the Northwest—and the sixth nationally—to declare its support for overturning the Hyde Amendment and restoring access to reproductive health care for every woman, regardless of her income or what kind of insurance she has.
The timing is critical. There were 205 abortion restrictions passed nationwide from 2011-2013, including state bans on public and even private insurance covering abortion. As women’s reproductive rights are deliberately and strategically eroded in other states, passing the resolution shows that the Hyde Amendment and attacks on women’s health do not reflect Seattle’s values.
As a state that values reproductive justice, we cannot afford to stand still. Passing a resolution against the Hyde Amendment is a reasonable, proactive step we can take as a community to reject laws that come between women and the healthcare they need, and to build momentum until all women across the country can meaningfully exercise their rights. Thirty-eight years is too long to wait for health care.
Bruce Harrell, Seattle City Council Member
with Lisa M. Stone, Legal Voice Executive Director
and Rachel Berkson, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Executive Director