As a child of immigrants, I grew up with a strong sense of justice and giving back to society. Because of this, I came to be an obstetrician/gynecologist in western rural New Mexico after training and working in Boston, due to New Mexico’s shortage of health care providers. Here, I take care of patients who are proud of their heritage and their homeland, and are fiercely protective of their families and community. Most patients here receive health care at federally funded facilities.
Many in this community have experienced barriers to health care because of institutional and historical racism, including significant barriers to accessing abortion care. For 43 years, the Hyde Amendment has blocked federal funds from being used for abortion care, rendering abortion care effectively inaccessible to 14.5 million people in the United States. This policy impacts a wide swath of people: People who have their insurance through Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Military personnel. Peace Corps volunteers. D.C. residents. People who receive care primarily through federally funded facilities like the VA or Indian Health Service. People in prison.
Many of my patients are part of those 14.5 million. I am also part of those 14.5 million. Because my health insurance comes through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), and because I also receive my care at a federal facility that is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment from providing abortion care, I would need to travel 140 miles and spend anywhere from $500 to $15,000 to receive abortion care.
I recognize that, although these restrictions represent a financial and logistical inconvenience to me, to many of my patients, this lack of access and insurance coverage is ruinous. Over my career, I have seen how the Hyde Amendment impacts many people, which is already problematic, but this is a regulation that is intended to most directly impact, and thus harm, communities with low incomes, those who live in remote areas and people of color.