Does the Government Fund Abortions?

How the Hyde Amendment Affects Federal Abortion Funding

One controversial issue surrounded by rumor and misinformation is that of government funding of abortion. In the U.S., do taxpayer dollars pay for abortions?

To dispel the rumors, let's look at a brief history of federal funding of abortion. It will help you understand why, for the past three decades, abortion has not been funded by the government.

The History of Federally Funded Abortions

Abortion was made legal in the United States by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in 1973.

During the first three years of legalized abortion, Medicaid -- the government program that provides health care to low-income pregnant women, children, the elderly, and the disabled -- covered the cost of terminating a pregnancy.

However, in 1977 Congress passed the Hyde Amendment which put limitations on Medicaid coverage of abortion. This allowed it for Medicaid recipients only in the cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's life was physically endangered.

Over the years, those two exceptions were eliminated. In 1979, abortions performed if a mother's life was endangered were no longer allowed. In 1981, abortions performed due to rape and/or incest were denied.

As the Hyde Amendment must be passed by Congress annually, the pendulum of opinion over abortion coverage has swung back and forth very slightly over the years. In 1993, Congress permitted abortion coverage for victims of rape and incest.

In addition, the current version of the Hyde Amendment also permits abortion for women whose lives are endangered by their pregnancies.

It Extends Beyond Medicaid

The ban on federal funding for abortion affects more than low-income women. Abortion is not covered for women in the military, the Peace Corps, federal prisons, and those who receive care from Indian Health Services.

The Hyde Amendment also applies to coverage provided through the Affordable Care Act.

The Future of the Hyde Amendment

This issue has come to life again in 2017. The House of Representatives passed a bill establishing the Hyde Amendment as a permanent fixture in federal law. A similar measure is up for consideration in the Senate. If this passes and is signed by the President, the Hyde Amendment will no longer be up for review on an annual basis, but be a perpetual law.