Widgets Magazine

Reproductive injustice and abortion in America

Because some gender non-conforming people, transgender men and gender expansive* people may also have unintended pregnancies, this article uses gender neutral language. The only exceptions to this appear in quotations and statistics, due to the nature of the sources.

In 1976, Congressman Henry Hyde, R-IL, said “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.”

Shortly after his remark, the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal insurance from covering abortion, passed in Congress. To this day, Hyde remains in effect, continuing to restrict access to abortion for low-income people, Native Americans who use Indian Health Services, government employees and military personnel.

Nearly half a century after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal but inaccessible in the United States. Because of policies such as Hyde, one in four poor women is forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy, and women denied abortions are three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line.

Yet anti-choice politicians, who are primarily cisgender men, aim to further limit access to abortion. Their efforts to do so indicate their failure to consider the emotional, physical and financial vulnerability that pregnancy forces onto people.

Do anti-choice politicians ever question what coming out as pregnant means for people in abusive relationships? Do they consider the welfare of pregnant young people with abusive parents? Does their forced-birth campaign address how emotional, physical and sexual violence often follow the words “I’m pregnant”?

Ignoring the vulnerability of pregnancy isn’t the only shortcoming of the anti-choice platform. Bushes and Rubios in Congress frequently claim that coercing people to give birth is not classist, because “choosing adoption is free.” Although adoption may reduce post-birth costs, it fails to subsidize prenatal expenses. For low-income people especially, new clothes for a bigger belly and more food for the fetus may mean less food on the table for the kids. Sixty percent of people who have abortions already have kids, and a subset are low-income. No one should be forced to compromise their kids’ welfare to bear the costs of an unwanted pregnancy.

Clearly, access to abortion is necessary for the safety and well-being of people with unintended pregnancies and their families. But fear and danger shouldn’t be a necessary precondition for the ability to choose.

Paying off debt. Providing for kids. Not wanting the time and cost of morning sickness and doctor visits. Feeling uncertain about the quality of local health care in the event of pregnancy complications.

There are hundreds of reasons why people consider abortions, but the truth is that “I don’t want for my body to be pregnant right now” is enough. People with uteruses are capable of making moral decisions that are best for themselves and their families, and all people with uteruses should have the right — and means — to choose.

It is past time that Congress act to ensure abortion coverage for all people, regardless of how much they earn or how they are insured. This July, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced the EACH Woman Act, which would end the Hyde amendment once and for all. While the EACH Woman Act has no chance of getting passed as long as Republicans dominate Congress, the mere act of introducing it marks a huge step forward. The fact that Barbara Lee, a black woman, introduced the bill reflects the continued leadership of women of color, and particularly black women, in spearheading the reproductive justice movement.

In 1994, members of Sister Song, a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Initiative, crafted a three-pronged vision of reproductive justice: the right to have a child, not have a child and parent kids in safe and healthy environments. Access to abortion is only a small — but necessary — piece of this vision, and it’s time to make it happen. It’s time to end Hyde.


Contact Allison Rose Martin at amartin9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • GotScience

    Access to abortion should not have to be rationalized to explain a necessity perceived or real. Access to abortion is respect of a simple basic freedom to choose.

  • Anon

    I agree with everything this article has to say. But getting the Hyde amendment repealed in this political climate with a Republican Congress? Even if we elect a Democrat next year, the House will almost certainly be Republican-controlled until 2020. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry?

  • Sterling

    How and when did ‘if you you’d like to kill your child, you’d best pay for it on your own dime’ become “reproductive injustice?”

  • Sterling

    So you would make a pro-life person fund what they genuinely believe to be murder? That sounds awfully compassionate

  • Sterling

    And please, the government already de-facto funds abortion through Planned Parenthood — yes, I know, the money isn’t technically allocated to that, but dollars are fungible and PP funding has the effect of subsidizing abortion

  • Don’t Tread On Me

    Let’s put aside the morality of abortion itself for a moment…

    If you think people should have access to abortions even if they can’t afford it, then by all means please feel free to donate some of _your_ money to Planned Parenthood. But if someone else feels that while abortion might be worthwhile, their money would be better spent funding AIDS research, or providing food for the homeless, and they don’t feel like they have enough money to fund all of the many good causes that are out there (even if you, or even the majority of voters, disagree and think they should be able to afford more), then why shouldn’t they be free to donate to those other causes instead? Or if someone feels that abortions are important enough to donate some of their money to, but that some other organization could provide more of them for lower cost with better safety in areas otherwise less well served, then why shouldn’t they be free to direct their money to that other organization instead? Why should abortion, or most anything else, be an “entitlement”, funded by government taxes, taxes taken from each of us by irresistible government force (or threat thereof)? What gives you, or even the majority of voters, the right to use such tyrannical force, even to ends that you believe to be the most noble, when someone else might disagree? Do individuals have any rights whatsoever to the fruits of their own labor, skill, talent, and precious limited time on this Earth, or do we all belong, body and soul, to The Greater Good of The Collective???

  • cris

    I have a child because of the Hyde Amendment. I am the kind of person that NEVER should have been responsible for producing nor raising another human being. Because this country decided in 1976 that the religious moral views of a few mattered more than human rights to bodily autonomy, I was punished for my sexuality and the failure of my birth control, as well as for being poor and young and unable to come up with $900 within a week while going to college and working part time for minimum wage. I am exactly the kind of woman that every Teaparty Republican and conservative person despises, although my husband and I did everything we could short of NOT FUCKING EACH OTHER to avoid getting pregnant, and now we’re parents doing the best with what we had to work with. I am a real person. This is not a sob story someone made up to create sympathy. There really is a child out there that lives a less fortunate life because he has the parents that he has, which was no fault of his own. So, in effect, all three of us were punished because a few believe my punishment for having sex is my son.

  • ’17

    So I can choose to kill you? You’ve missed the entire debate. The debate is not about “choice” it’s about whether abortion is murder. Nobody believes you should be able to choose to murder someone. But that’s the question that is fundamentally disagreed upon in the pro-choice/pro-life debate: is abortion murder? It’s not a debate over choice.

  • GotScience

    I have not missed anything. There is no debate here, only condemnation and a hatred of that which you disagree with. You are evil, and I loathe you and all those others who presume to decide what is good. You are ethical dwarves with hatred as blinders.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that bigger fish is called the 2016 elections. Meaning that now is a pretty good time to start campaigning for candidates in favor of the author’s position (along with a myriad of other issues that must be addressed).

  • civilized debate please

    ^what an asshole

  • Don’t Tread On Me

    Why do you believe that person A’s freedom to choose to have an abortion they can’t afford is more important than person B’s freedom to choose to decline to pay for person A’s abortion? Shouldn’t you respect person B’s simple basic freedom to choose, and respect it at least as much as you respect person A’s simple basic freedom to choose? What if person B perceives a necessity to pay for something else instead? And why do you believe that you have any right whatsoever to decide who’s freedom to respect more and who’s to trample?

    Your argument makes no sense whatsoever.

  • GotScience

    “to choose to decline to pay for person A’s abortion” No one is asking that. You are totally missing the point. No one pays for no one’s abortion. Ever. Now, let’s take this further. Churches’ contributions to Unemployment Insurance are voluntary. Churches always choose not to contribute. When someone in their employ gets laid off, there is no unemployment benefits. The person will end up getting at least Food Stamps. Who pays for that? the taxpayer. Why should I pay taxes to help Churches be cheap irresponsible employers? This is a true situation, while what you say is not. Stay out of people’s lives.

  • GotScience

    How can I not be an asshole? I am guilty of two things: Not agreeing with totalitarian outlooks, and I make sense- how dare I?

  • Don’t Tread On Me

    Declining to fund something for someone else is not interfering in their life; it is exactly the opposite of getting involved in someone else’s life, it is passive, it is non-action. Forcing someone to fund something for someone else IS getting involved in someone else’s life; it is you and the original author who are in the wrong, proposing the violation of the consent of others.

    – The article explicitly proposes government funded abortions.
    – Government funding comes from taxes.
    – Taxes take money from people, by irresistible violent force or threat thereof, whether the people being taken from agree with how the money will be spent or not.
    – Taking money from people without their agreement takes away their ability to choose how to spend the money taken from them.
    – Therefore, the proposal of government funded abortions would give the choice of abortions to some only by taking away the choice from others about whether or not to pay for the abortions.

    QED. And simple enough logic that, as someone affiliated with Stanford, you should have understood it the first time.

    So please explain the morality of offering some choice to one group by using the irresistible force of government taxation to take away some choice from another group. Do you really believe that shifting around injustice from one group to another makes the total amount of injustice in the world any less?

    Or perhaps you just care about one group of people more than another, so you don’t mind causing injustice on the other side as long as your side gets what you want? The problem with that approach is that such levers of power, once created, are used by the other side against your cause just as effectively as you would use such power against them, if not more so. Government force has always been exploited by the powerful and rich more easily and more thoroughly than it could ever possibly be exploited by the weaker and more needy. This is inherent in the fact that the rich and powerful are, by definition, richer and more powerful than the needy and weak. So the best course of action for the weaker and more needy to pursue ought to be striving to reduce the overall power and reach of government, not increase it. Trying to use government power the way the article proposes and the way you seem to advocate universally winds up only causing more problems than it ever solves, ESPECIALLY for the weaker and more needy. It is exactly 180 degrees the wrong course of action to use towards the ends you purport to support.

    (And to address the straw man argument you threw up about churches, Unemployment Insurance, and Food Stamps…
    – Rather than condemning some hypothetical Church for being a cheap and irresponsible employer, be glad they were willing to be an employer that kept the hypothetical employee off of Food Stamps for any period of time at all; otherwise they would have been unemployed and on Food Stamps for that period as well.
    – Food Stamps is simply another example of government forced redistribution of wealth, just like the example of government forced redistribution of wealth proposed in the article to fund an abortion entitlement, and I object to the Food Stamps program as well, on the same grounds. People should be free to choose to voluntarily support charities for the hungry if they think it is an important cause, and personally I do exactly that, even after all the taxes I am forced to pay. But as I pointed out above, FORCING people to contribute to ANY social program is an immoral violation of consent, even IF, as in the case of feeding the hungry, what is being funded is in theory exceedingly noble. What’s more, as I explained, it is that the very mere creation of such levers of government power that inevitably leads to them being used against the needy more than they could possibly ever help them, simply because, as we all know, Power Corrupts.
    – Unemployment Insurance is not a right, it is simply sometimes part of the contract voluntarily negotiated between employer and employee at time of hire. If you suggest that it should be yet another entitlement foisted by government upon some people, i.e. employers, then it is just as immoral as all the other so-called entitlements discussed here, and in the long run just as bad for those it purports to try to help.)

  • Julez

    Quoting the article: “There are hundreds of reasons why people consider abortions, but the truth is that “I don’t want for my body to be pregnant right now” is enough.”

    Hummm, I think that’s outrageous!

    Whoops, I made a little mistake; think I’ll just mosey on over to planned parenthood
    and have a quick a little abortion. I can’t afford a “mistake” so the
    government will just pay to correct it. Yea, that’s the ticket…use it as birth control.
    Why is that OK? Let’s face it, sex is not rocket science. Most folks these days understand that the little swimmers travel upstream to fertilize the happy egg! Protection is an option is it not?

    I am consistently outraged by so many people who are alright with this type of
    thinking. I do not disagree that woman should have choices, don’t get me wrong.
    I’m just wondering what “vulnerability’ is considered for the suctioned out
    fetus, tossed away or sold for body parts these days? After all, “new clothes
    for a bigger belly” was just not a choice!

    Birth Control:
    Abstinence: 00.00 ZERO
    Condom via Planned Parenthood: $1.00 or free
    Birth Control Pill via Planned Parenthood: $00.00-50.00

  • gotscience is an asshole

    still an asshole lol