Christine Poquiz, Resident Blogger (’12, University of California, Davis School of Law)
As we reach the end of Abortion Access Month, September 30,2013 marks the 37th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment bans public insurance, like Medicaid, from covering the costs of abortion care. On its face, it may not sound like a big deal, but the Hyde amendment is one of the biggest obstacles for poor women and women of color seeking an abortion. Restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces 1 in 4 poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Advocates in the reproductive justice, health and rights movement throw the words “Hyde Amendment” around like everyone understands what it means. Through my work at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), I know abortion coverage is a difficult topic to talk about. Before we can even talk about funding for abortions, we have to first get the community to care about the right to abortion, and before that, we need to have frank discussions about sex, sexuality, sex education, etc. Culturally, it’s generally taboo to discuss these issues. Growing up, I’d see white parents having “the talk” with their kids about sex and safe sex on TV shows and movies. However, in my Filipino-American household, and probably many other AAPI homes, it was something that was never mentioned other than the occasional “don’t get pregnant.” But there was no discussion about how not to get pregnant or about sex in general. Conversations about abortion are even harder to have. Granted, abortion is a difficult topic no matter the community, but it seems to be that it’s almost never talked about in AAPI families.
How do we get the AAPI community to start talking about abortion? The need is high. Though research on our community is limited, the studies we do have show that some AAPI subpopulations have high rates of unintended pregnancies and utilize abortion care at high rates. Furthermore, sexually active AAPI women use contraception at significantly lower rates.
It’s important for us to start having frank discussions about sex and dispel the myth that AAPIs are the model minority and aren’t affected by policies like the Hyde Amendment. 1 in 10 Asian Americans, 1 in 7 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and 1 in 5 Southeast Asians rely on Medicaid. Additionally, 26% of Hmong and 20% of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line. The Hyde Amendment is a very real concern for women in AAPI community. Hyde can make abortion care unaffordable and out of reach for women who depend on Medicaid and other public insurance. Without the ability to access it, the right to abortion becomes meaningless. Women of color and poor women do not need another barrier to healthcare; they deserve insurance coverage for ALL of their healthcare— including abortion.
What makes the Hyde Amendment even more frustrating is that Congress reauthorizes it every year. This is something that Congress has to affirmatively vote on every year to renew. It’s up to us to ask for its repeal. On this 37th anniversary of Hyde, advocates and activists are demanding just that. Here at NAPAWF, we’re engaging in a social media campaign that lifts up how the Hyde Amendment hurts AAPI women.
Join us on twitter or facebook to weigh in on the conversation. Let’s start talking about it.