1973 – Doe v. Bolton: The Fight for Reproductive Health

1973 – Doe v. Bolton: The Fight for Reproductive Health Timelines: National Health Law Program Timeline

In 1973, the National Health Law Program submitted an Amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case Doe v. Bolton, a companion case to Roe v. Wade, which was decided the same day. As it is today, we were worried that the needs of low-income women would be ignored in the larger debate around access to reproductive health care. Initially, low-income women could access abortion care through Medicaid, but in the decades since Roe, federal and state lawmakers found ways to make abortion more difficult to obtain by restricting insurance coverage for the procedure, leaving many people without coverage for a critical reproductive health service. The most notable of these restrictions is the Hyde Amendment. Named for the late U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and first implemented in 1977, the amendment bans the use of federal funds for abortion coverage through the Medicaid program, except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. The National Health Law Program, and many partner organizations, continue to advocate for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and greater access to all health care, including reproductive health care.

It is an undeniable fact that abortion in Georgia and in virtually every other state in the United States is far more readily available to the white, paying patient than to the poor and the non-white. Studies by physicians, sociologists, public health experts, and lawyers all reach this same conclusion. The reasons for it are not purely economic, i.e., that because abortion is an expensive commodity to obtain on the medical marketplace, it is therefore to be expected that the rich will have greater access to it. It is also because in the facilities which provide health care to the poor, abortion is simply not made available to the poor and non-white on the same conditions as it is to paying patients. As a result, the poor resort to criminal abortion, with its high toll of infection and death, in vastly disproportionate numbers.” – Excerpt from Doe v. Bolton Amicus Curiae.

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For almost 50 years, the National Health Law Program has fought to expand access to quality health care to low-income individuals and underserved communities. Today we are pleased to launch a newly designed website for our future work to make health care a reality for all people. Please take time to peruse our new site, and sign up for our email updates to learn about us, watch the work we do, and become engaged.

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