At 17 years old, I found myself sitting alone in a bathroom stall, waiting for the results of a pregnancy test.
One minute I was worried about my school work and football games, and the next, I was worried about what I would do if the test was positive. I was sure that if I was pregnant I wouldn’t want to continue the pregnancy, but I didn’t know where or how to get an abortion, or how I would pay for it.
There were no abortion clinics in Dublin or Macon, and my insurance—PeachCare—wouldn’t cover my procedure.
When I found out that I wasn’t pregnant, the worry and anxiety that had washed over me went away.
But now, over 10 years later, I’m filled with worry all over again as we witness anti-abortion politicians from across the country, including here in Georgia, enact a slew of laws aimed at limiting access to those who need it most.
But what many people don’t know is that for 43 years, federal policy has already been doing just that. Every year, anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress renew the Hyde Amendment, a policy that strips low-income people of access to much-needed insurance coverage for abortion.
The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade granted folks in the United States the right to an abortion. By renewing Hyde every year, Congress has denied that right to millions of low-income folks enrolled in Medicaid, who are most likely to be people of color.
This is the same policy that would have prevented me from using my insurance to cover my abortion as a young person. A pregnant person who seeks an abortion but is denied is more likely to fall into poverty than one who is able to get an abortion. Some who live paycheck-to-paycheck end up selling their precious personal items or forgoing basic needs.
This is especially troubling given that low-income folks and people of color – specifically those who are least able to afford out-of-pocket medical expenses – already experience disproportionately high rates of adverse health conditions. Denying access to abortion care only exacerbates these existing health disparities.
In a state like Georgia, with a devastatingly high maternal mortality rate, particularly for Black women, politicians should be focused on improving health care access, not denying coverage. We have 79 counties without an ob-gyn. Rural hospitals are closing, creating maternal health care crises. And currently, 96 percent of Georgians live in a county without an abortion provider.
By placing an often insurmountable barrier to abortion care, anti-choice lawmakers force one in four low-income women to carry their unwanted pregnancies. Others are forced to delay their abortions while they rush to collect the funds to pay for it. At Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, the only abortion fund in Georgia, we speak to those folks every day who feel like they will be forced to continue their pregnancy due to the barriers they are experiencing.
Repealing Hyde has become a matter of greater urgency this year, as anti-choice state legislators across the country pass dangerous abortion bans. In 2019 alone, 12 states, including Georgia, have passed some type of abortion ban. Most are here in the South, where barriers to access are already high and where clinics are few and far between.
When it comes to one of the most important decisions in life, everyone should be able to consider all the options available to them, no matter how much money they make or how they are insured. It’s time to lift the Hyde Amendment now and ensure everyone can get the abortion care they need without political interference.
Quita Tinsley is the deputy director of Access Reproductive Care (ARC) – Southeast and a Middle Georgia native from Allentown.