To Protect Our Health, We Must Enact The EACH Act

“I certainly would 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.”

—former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who proposed the Hyde Amendment, assuring there will be no Medicaid coverage for abortion.

To Protect Our Health, We Must Enact The EACH Act
“Rose died at the hands of Henry Hyde,” writes Torres, “and a full generation of lawmakers have continued to perpetuate the same violence since her death.” (The Coalition for Reproductive Freedom / Northeastern University Library)

In 1977, a young woman named Rosie Jimenez lived in McAllen, Texas, not
far from my home. She was a single mother, a student and a woman of ambition. When she became pregnant, she didn’t want to have another child at that time, so she sought out abortion care. But she couldn’t afford an abortion. And since the Hyde Amendment, banning the use of federal funds or federal assistance for abortion care, had passed just a year before, she saw no choice but to seek out an illegal abortion. She died of complications from the procedure.

Henry Hyde proposed the Hyde Amendment as a response to the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the U.S. He was up front about his intentions, saying: “I certainly would 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.”

In other words, Henry Hyde did a run-around on the Supreme Court’s
ruling and essentially nullified it for millions. Since the first passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, it has been reenacted every year since. Lawmakers in 33 states have passed similar bills barring use of state Medicaid funds for abortion.

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973—but simply establishing the right
to abortion was and is the bare minimum. People with marginalized identities do not have the same access to abortion that privileged people do. State legislators and federal lawmakers have made it their mission to use us as political ploys to fuel their anti-choice agenda. Abortion may be legal, but it is not accessible.

When I first heard Rosie’s story a few years ago, I was infuriated. She
died at the hands of Henry Hyde, and a full generation of lawmakers have continued to perpetuate the same violence since her death. I knew that we needed to continue fighting to repeal the Hyde Amendment, so I joined community organizers in the Rio Grande Valley (“the RGV”), Rosie’s home and mine, to fight for ultimate reproductive justice.


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For people in the RGV, there’s just one clinic that is accessible: the
clinic in McAllen. In addition to the cost of abortion, some must drive hours to get there, and with Texas’s other restrictions, including a forced waiting period, they may have to stay overnight. For young people who are in school, or who have low incomes, the expenses are daunting. And, per the Hyde Amendment, there is no Medicaid coverage for abortion as there is for nearly every other routine medical procedure.

That’s why I currently organize and fundraise with our local abortion
fund to ensure people are able to access abortion care freely without economic barriers. I’m honored to do this work. But personal fundraising shouldn’t have to cover the gaps left by government health care. That’s where the EACH Act, introduced last week, comes in.

To Protect Our Health, We Must Enact The EACH Act
Per the Hyde Amendment, there is no Medicaid coverage for abortion as there is for nearly every other routine medical procedure. (Joe Piette / Flickr)

The Equal Access to Abortion in Health Care Act (also known as the EACH Woman Act) would permanently repeal the Hyde amendment, restoring abortion coverage to people who are on a government health care insurance program—who are on a government-managed health
insurance program such as that offered by the military, or who get their health care from a government provider (such as Indian Health Care Services or the Bureau of Prisons).

In 2016, Democrats made ending the Hyde Amendment part of their platform. President Biden’s position on Hyde has evolved over the years, but he officially came out in opposition to it in 2019. There is a clear path to passage of the EACH Act and a permanent end to Hyde.

It’s too late for Rosie and to a generation of young women after her.
But for me and thousands of other young people across the country fighting this fight, this work is about ensuring no one ever suffers as Rosie and her family did again. My town, my region, my state, my country all need the EACH Act. To protect our health, our lives, and our futures, we need to pass EACH now.

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About

Cathy Torres is on the Board of Directors for the Frontera Fund, and is a member of the Young Women of Color Leadership Council at Advocates for Youth.