'Lucky' Abortion Story Proves One Law Still Makes Women Struggle Decades Later
Codie was 25 years old and in the middle of driving across the country when she found out she was pregnant.
She had just bought a new car with her family in Pennsylvania, after her old one got totaled. She was driving back to New Mexico – where she works as a high school teacher – when she took a pregnancy test.
Codie called Planned Parenthood. They could get her an appointment for an abortion in two weeks.
They asked her about her salary. Based on that, the organization had a payment scale.
Codie was making $34,000 a year.
Her abortion, they told her, would cost $600. She had no idea where she would get that in two weeks.
Her family had helped her pay for the car, so they couldn't help much more. She wondered,
But then, a "fairy godmother saved the day." Codie remembered a gold coin her mother had bought for her when she was a child. She sold it to a jeweler for just over $600.
For some women, Codie realizes, $600 may have been nothing. But for her, it was "terrifying."
She told Elite Daily,
Codie had a stroke of luck (or magic) to get the money she needed. But many other women are left scrambling due to finances in the face of an unwanted pregnancy.
The Hyde Amendment – which is celebrating its 40th anniversary today – is a major contributor to this struggle.
This amendment says federal funds can't be used for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest and medical threats to the mother's life. This affects women who use Medicaid for health care.
So basically, some of our nation's most vulnerable women -- low-income women -- have limited access to what's supposed to be a protected right, as the Supreme Court confirmed this year.
In fact, Henry Hyde, the Republican representative who sponsored the amendment 40 years ago, made it clear this law is intended to prevent women from getting abortions.
In 1977, he said,
The financial cost of abortion is a major barrier to access.
The National Network of Abortion Funds gives away about $3.5 million annually to help women pay for abortions, according to Yamani Hernandez, the executive director.
Hernandez initially got into abortion fund activism because of a girl she met while she was working at a community-based arts program. The girl was pregnant and tried to get people to beat her up so she would miscarry.
She said it was simpler and cheaper than trying to get an abortion.
It was then Hernandez realized just how serious a barrier money is to reproductive health care. She helped the girl get the money for her abortion through a city fund.
Abortion funds get their money from foundation funding and individual donors. They get about 100,000 calls a year asking for financial aid, but they can only serve about a third of those women.
Hernandez told Elite Daily,
The Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects young women, women of color, immigrant women and transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
Destiny Lopez, co-chair of All* Above All, called the Hyde Amendment "one of the harshest remaining barriers to abortion."
All* Above All is leading the push to get rid of the Hyde Amendment.
The current fight against the Hyde Amendment is being led largely by the women affected by it: young women of color. This is different from the older generation's fights for reproductive rights, which has largely had the public face of white women.
Lopez told Elite Daily,
But racial discrepancies in abortion activism leadership still exist.
Hernandez is the only black woman leading a national abortion-specific organization. She considers that progress, but she wants to see more.
People who call NNAF for funds, she said, are largely women of color. So, it can be a "troubling dynamic" when the women answering those calls aren't like them.
Hernandez said it's important to have women of color leading the activism so other women of color can see "this is not just for white women. This is for all of us."
Modern activists are breaking down the stigma surrounding abortion, and that's making the fight against laws like the Hyde Amendment stronger.
Kierra Johnson, executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, wrote in an email to Elite Daily,
Johnson also added it's important for URGE to have young leaders. She wrote,
Johnson took the fight to Congress last week, where she spoke in a House Judiciary Committee about abortion.
There, one Republican representative compared abortion to slavery, saying women treat fetuses like "property."
To this, Johnson responded it was "interesting" for him to bring up slavery.
Congress might soon be able to stop the Hyde Amendment.
Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Barbara Lee – who is black – introduced the EACH Woman Act last year, which now has over 120 co-sponsors. This act would effectively undo the Hyde Amendment, lifting coverage bans.
Lee wrote for US News this week,
Until then, legislators and activists will continue their work to make a protected right equally accessible to all.