As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I love bringing essential care to the women I work with. Tragically, there are certain federal restrictions that prevent me from being able to provide all my patients with the services they need and deserve, no matter how motivated I may be to help.
The Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act currently being considered by the Senate would make these restrictions even more severe, threatening reproductive health care coverage for my patients and for people nationwide. Yet even if Republicans fail in their efforts to dismantle the ACA, the fight for access to affordable and equitable reproductive health care, especially abortion care, will be far from over. The ongoing deliberation around comprehensive reproductive health care has heard the voices of politicians and angry voters alike — but not the voice of doctors. We have spoken out, again and again, against a damaging policy that must be revoked: the Hyde Amendment.
The Hyde Amendment — which was passed 41 years ago this week — withholds abortion coverage from those reliant on the government for their insurance, and its renewal is included in the Graham-Cassidy bill. Those impacted include, but are not limited to, those enrolled in Medicaid, federal employees, military personnel, the list goes on. Except in the limited cases of rape, incest or life endangerment, patients who come to me and fall into any of these broad sweeping categories are unable to access affordable abortion care. Members of Congress have the opportunity to change this harmful policy each year when Hyde has to be renewed, but so far, they have failed.
Organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and representatives from different specialties have voiced their opinions about the Hyde Amendment for years — unanimously encouraging their representatives to vote against it. These organizations, and the doctors they represent, know first-hand the effects Hyde has on patients across the country.
And so do I. I can speak personally to those who have been negatively affected by the Hyde Amendment, and what upholding Hyde will take away for women and families of the future. One of my patients, while home on a break from military service, was thrilled to learn she was pregnant. But in her second trimester, she learned her baby had a fetal anomaly that was not compatible with life if she delivered, and decided the best thing for her baby was to end the pregnancy. We were happy to take care of her in this vulnerable time, but because of the Hyde Amendment, the procedure would not be covered by her insurance. Our team and outside support services worked tirelessly to scrap together the money to help my patient pay for the abortion. Many women are not so lucky.
The only health care debate worth having is one that improves access for all people — starting with the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Congress calls upon experts when making important decisions for our country; OB/GYNs are here, ready to be heard.
Dr. Kristyn Brandi is a Los Angeles-based OB-GYN and a member of Physicians for Reproductive Health.