Abortion Measure

Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion in 1973, and for 3 years, federal funds covered the procedure without restriction. In 1976, Illinois Representative Henry Hyde succeeded in passing an amendment – later known as the Hyde Amendment – limiting whether an abortion will or will not be covered by Medicaid.

The law went into effect in 1977, but in July of that year, a Brooklyn federal district judge named John F. Dooling Jr. issued a temporary restraining order, effectively blocking the measure and ordering the New York Department of Health, Education and Welfare to continue paying for elective abortions. This was the second time Dooling refused to comply with the federal order: a month before, the Supreme Court vacated his preliminary injunction on the same issue.

On the national level, the abortion debate continued to rage, with Congress arguing about whether women who’d become pregnant by rape or incest should receive assistance in terminating the pregnancy. The Carter Administration said no, the House said no, the Senate said yes, and Judge Dooling lifted his order on August 5, 1977, citing the influence of the Supreme Court in his decision.

In 1979, Congress denied federal funding for abortion in cases where the physical health of the mother was threatened by the pregnancy. In 1981, federal funding was denied for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. In 1993, Congress reversed itself on rape and incest; presently, abortion coverage is required in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.