The Hyde Amendment, poor women, and unsafe abortion
January 25th, 2011
Last week an unlicensed practitioner performing abortions in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia was arrested and charged with the murder of seven infants and one woman who died in his custody.
As details come to light, we at the National Network of Abortion Funds are horrified at the news, and I wanted to let you know where we stand on this situation.
The National Network of Abortion Funds and our 100 member abortion Funds across the U.S. and abroad join the rest of the reproductive rights and justice community in condemning unsafe and illegal practices that reportedly took place at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s West Philadelphia facility, Women’s Medical Society.
According to press reports, none of Gosnell's employees had medical training—one was a high school student he permitted to administer anesthesia. For years, he provided "cheap" abortions in unsanitary conditions, often very late in pregnancy, for women who lacked the money for a safe experience at a legitimate clinic—most often women of color and immigrant women. In fact, the Grand Jury report reveals abhorrent conditions that resulted in countless injuries and overdoses that went unreported by his vulnerable clientele.
These charges lay bare the reality of abortion access for poor women in America. The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal monies from covering abortion care for women enrolled in Medicaid, forces some of our country’s poorest and most disadvantaged women to take desperate measures in order to obtain an abortion, including risking their health and lives in order to obtain an abortion they can afford.
Media coverage has largely focused on the outrageous conditions reported in Gosnell's practice. But the fact that a clinic like this can be permitted to exist at all raises important questions.
In her commentary at The Grio, Lori Adelman asks why poor women, immigrant women, and women of color have come to expect such low standards of medical care. And an abortion provider who blogs at Abortion Clinic Days notes that "desperate women with little money are easy prey for exploitative physicians," remarking that the charges against Gosnell—clearly a provider of last resort—sound exactly like the harrowing experiences of women who sought abortions before Roe v. Wade. Indeed, for the hundreds of women who call our funds each week, it is as if Roe v. Wade never happened.
Rose Corrigan, a professor of politics and law who volunteers with the Women's Medical Fund in Philadelphia observes in Alternet that, "Because of the Medicaid ban on abortion funding and state restrictions, poor women face horrific choices. So what I’ve seen is that women often shop around for abortion services. Women are so poor that a few dollars really make a difference.”
The National Network of Abortion Funds calls for an end to the Hyde Amendment and for policies that protect access to abortion for every woman, regardless of her financial resources. As a society, we must ensure that every single woman in the United States has the ability to make important life decisions for the health and well-being of herself and her family and can do so without putting her life or her health in jeopardy.
Demand justice. Sign the petition to repeal the Hyde Amendment so that no woman is forced to seek an illegal abortion in squalid, dangerous conditions.
3 more days til punk rock karaoke in #Bushwick http://t.co/FzsSUKEsed Helps @NYAAF. And it's fun.
3 hours 44 min ago
Abortion Funds Daily Digest is out! http://t.co/fl4f6YZRpR ▸ Top stories today via @lilithfund @IrishFPA @womensmedfund
4 hours 2 min ago
RT @morgmeneshets: Think about donating to @AbortionFunds to ensure that women in #OK who have already lost so much can access #abortion ca…
4 hours 45 min ago