The following was published Oct. 24, 2016, as a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
In your editorial, “Keep it,” The Times-Dispatch expresses support for legal abortion, while also backing the Hyde Amendment, a 40-year-old policy that politicians use to deny abortion coverage to low-income women.
The reality is that a legal right without the means to access it is hardly a right at all. However we feel about abortion personally, there is no question that the Hyde Amendment wreaks havoc on the health and well-being of women, including in Virginia. By taking away coverage for abortion from those enrolled in Medicaid, politicians force one in four poor women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. In addition, a woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get the care she needs.
Your editorial also misrepresents the public’s views on Hyde. A poll released last month shows that three in four (76 percent) voters in battleground states agree (including 60 percent who strongly agree) with the statement: “However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for it just because she’s poor.” There is broad consensus on this point across party lines with 76 percent of independents, 66 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats in agreement.
The Hyde Amendment is an outdated policy that forces women to make impossible decisions between paying for rent or groceries and paying for necessary reproductive care. Hyde also violates the right of conscience of those women by denying health coverage based on someone else’s personal belief. True freedom of conscience means that each of us can make our own decisions about the most important things in life, and that includes whether and when to become a parent.
Gail Deady The Secular Society Womens' Rights Legal Fellow, ACLU of Virginia Richmond