This week marks the 38th anniversary of Congress first passing the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid from covering abortion care. This ban, enacted annually through the federal appropriations process, makes abortion unaffordable and often pushes it out of reach for women who are on Medicaid.
Just as disturbing as politicians’ willingness to interfere in personal decisions is the disproportionate impact the Hyde Amendment has on women of color. As an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman, I am very concerned about the impact that the Hyde Amendment continues to have on my AAPI community. Also, being a mother of a daughter in Minnesota, it has become even more personally important to me because I want to ensure that my daughter will grow up in a world where women have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies.
In the United States, 1 in 10 Asian Americans, 1 in 7 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and 1 in 5 Southeast Asians are enrolled in Medicaid. These statistics are exacerbated in Minnesota, where there is the largest ratio of Southeast Asians (including Bhutanese, Burmese, Cambodian, Hmong, Karen, Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese) among all states. Minnesota is home to the second largest Hmong population and third largest Lao population in the United States.
A large percentage of the AAPI community in Minnesota live below the poverty line, including 32 percent of Hmong, 28 percent of Laotian, 15 percent of Cambodian, and 12 percent of Vietnamese. Fortunately, in Minnesota, current Minnesota Medical Assistance covers abortion; however, it is constantly under attack in the state Legislature.”
Working to lift coverage bans
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) has been actively engaging the AAPI community in fighting to repeal the Hyde Amendment. NAPAWF is one of more than 60 partner organizations in the All* Above All Campaign building support for lifting abortion coverage bans.
Locally, the NAPAWF Twin Cities Chapter recently co-sponsored the All* Above All campaign’s Minneapolis stop on the Be Bold Road Trip, uniting people across the country to stand up against abortion coverage bans. Covering nearly 10,000 miles and visiting 12 cities in 8 states, the tour mobilized millennials, people of color, and other diverse groups to stand up to the avalanche of attempts to disenfranchise them and their reproductive health decision making. The chapter also sent two leaders to All* Above All’s Hill Education Day in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, where representatives from across the U.S. met with legislators in D.C. to tell them about the impact that the Hyde Amendment has on low-income women and women of color.
When it comes to the most important decisions in life, such as whether to become a parent, it is vital that a woman is able to consider all her options, including an abortion, regardless of her financial status. Instead of bans like the Hyde Amendment, it’s time for Congress to lift the restrictions on abortion coverage so women can make decisions based on what’s best for themselves.
Melissa Kwon, PhD, is the Reproductive Justice Leadership and Research Associate Director for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and co-chair of the NAPAWF Twin Cities Chapter.
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Correction: A previous version of this commentary misstated the relative ability of poor Minnesota women to get an abortion that is covered by insurance.