Rosie Jimenez Was The Hyde Amendment’s First Victim, Today Joe Biden Continues To Support The Anti-Abortion Bill
While the 2020 election is still more than a year away, this summer is giving us plenty of political action. As the Democratic hopefuls vie to make a name for themselves in an over-crowded race, we can already see which topics are heavily resonating with voters. Education and Universal Health Care are popular topics but the subject of abortion rights is setting the tone of this election.
Currently, inhabitants of the United States are in the middle of a sweeping attack on our reproductive rights. States like Alabama and Georgia have recently passed “Heartbeat Bills” — legislation that prohibits abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be heard (usually at six weeks gestation.) Meanwhile, reproductive rights advocates are attempting to fight back against these laws. As they protest, these supporters share stories of times when abortion wasn’t safe and legal. They know better than anyone that an abortion ban won’t end abortions; it will only end safe abortion.
With this new focus on safe and affordable access to abortion, the forty-year-old Hyde Amendment is getting new attention.
Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment’s goal was to further prevent abortions from being covered under Medicaid.
Unlike today’s “Heartbeat Bills,” the amendment does make an exception in the cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is threatened by a pregnancy. Still, it is a law that unfairly targets people in low-income communities as well as Black and brown women. Without the expense being paid by Medicare or other government assistance, abortion is often another fee that can’t be paid but is no less needed.
At the time, this abortion legislation was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. While abortion still carries some stigma, the 1970s were a much less tolerant place for women seeking to no longer be pregnant. While some people have changed their stance on the Hype Amendment and abortion in general, not everyone has adjusted with the times.
The Hyde Amendment has faced renewed attention since former-Vice President Joe Biden announced his stance on the law.
Biden was one of the original legislators who voted for the amendment in 1976. Recently, the presidential contender’s team was forced to restate his position on the Hyde Amendment after Biden erroneously came out against it. A representative for the former-Vice President reiterated that Biden did, in fact, support the amendment just as much as he did when he first voted for it.
This new attention has resulted in other presidential contenders sharing their thoughts on the Hyde Amendment. Former-Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Corey Booker have all called for its appeal. Other progressive legislators have turned towards attempting to remove the amendment in the near future.
Additionally, during the June 11th, 2019 session of the House Rules Committee, Representative Ayanna Pressley sponsored one such bill. The legislation would remove the Hyde Amendment. Doing so would ensure that government aid could be used to cover abortion costs. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that any bill overturning the Hyde Amendment would have survived a Republican-led Senate. This attempt was killed before it came to a vote but hopefully, it’s just the start.
The decision to appeal the Hyde Amendment must come down to the harm it has done and the harm it can further do.
Despite being common for centuries, abortion was finally legalized in the United States in 1973. For the first time, women were able to see a trained professional. Before, women relied on midwives or anyone willing to take the risk to see them. They ran the risk of dying from the procedure or of being arrested. They had difficult decisions to make when facing abortion. Now, they had somewhere safe to go.
However, just three years later, that would be taken from them. The Hyde Amendment would force women to obtain abortions through riskier means.
Rosie Jimenez was one such woman. A single mother from McAllen, Texas, Jimenez worked towards a better life for her and her daughter. She was attending college classes when, in September of 1977, she discovered that she was pregnant.
For her, the choice to get an abortion was obvious. Another baby would derail her education and put even more strain on her limited income. However, with the Hyde Amendment’s enactment, Jimenez couldn’t afford the cost of an abortion from an actual OBGYN.
This was Representative Henry Hyde’s goal when he sponsored the bill that would become the Hyde Amendment.
A pro-life politician, Hyde said of abortion, “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the…Medicaid bill.”
Before the Hyde Amendment was passed, Medicare would have covered the $230 abortion fee. Instead, Jimenez had to find a cheaper option. Her search for an abortion brought her to the home of midwife Maria Pineda. While Pineda was licensed to deliver babies, she wasn’t authorized to perform abortions. Still, at $150 her price was $80 cheaper than a professional.
On September 25th, Jimenez visited Pineda and received an abortion within her home.
The young mother spiked a fever by the next morning. Jimenez began hemorrhaging and vomiting as a side effect of an infection she developed. During an abortion, dirt and germs can be introduced via unsanitary instruments or improper hygiene. This a major concern that arises when proper reproductive health is withheld from women as it was with Jimenez.
The young mother was rushed to McAllen General Hospital where she would spend seven days fighting for her life. She could no longer breath on her own so Jimenez was given an emergency tracheotomy. Also, the infection ravaged her uterus severely. She was given a hysterectomy in an attempt to stop the spread of bacteria.
Sadly, the damaged had been done. The infection had spread to her heart and other organs. Rosie Jimenez was only 27 when she died of organ failure. It was caused by the infection contracted from her abortion.
Jimenez’s death greatly affected her friends and family, but it also had a national impact.
Once her story spread, candlelit vigils were held all over the country for Jimenez. Rallies were organized in New York and Washington DC denouncing Congress and the federal government for limiting access to safe and legal abortion. Though there were other instances like this one, none had resulted in death. As such, Jimenez was known as the “first victim” of the Hyde Amendment.
As pro-choice advocates shared Jimenez’s story, conservatives used it to condemn abortion in general. A 1977 investigation by the CDC mistakenly claimed that Jimenez got an illegal abortion in Mexico. The media circulated rumors that she had attempted to hide her pregnancy from family members. They claimed that this botched “Mexican” abortion was a result of her concealment.
In fact, Jimenez was receiving more bad press than the woman who performed her abortion.
The woman, Pineda, didn’t even face charges for what she had done. She was free to continue selling hope to desperate women at a discount. She was free to infect and kill others who came to her for help.
It wasn’t until Jimenez’s best friend, Diane Rivera, got involved that anything was done. New York writer, Ellen Frankfort, and National Abortion Federation director, Frances Kissling, worked with Rivera to stop Pineda. The three performed an undercover sting operation that caught the illegal abortionist red-handed.
However, even with evidence of her crimes, Pineda was only charged with a Class A misdemeanor. She served a mere three days in jail and paid a $100 fine. That’s the only penalty she paid for killing Rosie Jimenez. Additionally, there was no follow-up to ensure Pineda didn’t operate again.
Rosie Jimenez’s story is one that reproductive rights champions have been echoing for over forty years. We must acknowledge that the Hyde Amendment was specifically designed to discourage safe abortions. It was outlined to hurt women like Jimenez — women who are poor and brown and who deserve better.
For every woman who is able to end her pregnancy without fear and suffering, there are more who will face the same fate as Jimenez. Until there is a guarantee of safe, legal and affordable abortion, our work is not done.