When President Biden began assembling his Cabinet, several commentators predicted that his presidency would be something of an Obama third term. But now Biden has broken further from those predictions in his budget proposal by gutting the Hyde Amendment — a long-held and popular policy that prevents federal taxpayer dollars from directly funding abortions.
The Obama administration maintained this commonsense compromise even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress; and if they’re smart and reasonable, some congressional Democrats today will wake up and do the same.
The Hyde Amendment first passed in 1976 with bipartisan support. In fact, a majority of the House members who voted for it were Democrats. The Supreme Court upheld the provision in 1980, and it’s been a point of strong agreement for many Americans, both pro-life and pro-choice, long since.
Biden himself supported the Hyde Amendment for nearly his entire political career. But then, two years ago, Biden did a sudden 180 because he received intense pressure on the issue from the far left of his party and was struggling to compete in the Democratic primary race. It seems clear that the president started down this path to appease a minority of vocal activists, even though he seems to know that repealing Hyde is bad policy.
As Slate detailed in the debate sparked by Biden’s 2019 flip-flop, poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans consistently support the Hyde Amendment. Slate found that “the average [polling] gap between the pro-funding and anti-funding positions is 19 percentage points,” and that, even among self-identified Democrats, the polling gap in opposition to the Hyde Amendment lingered in mere single digits. This data is well-reflected in state abortion policy, too. Efforts to channel state tax dollars (which are not touched by the Hyde Amendment) directly toward abortions have succeeded in only seven state legislatures.
President Biden has stepped far beyond Roe v. Wade’s right to privacy when he defends Hyde by saying abortion-seeking women also need “the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right” via taxpayer financial support. This logic doesn’t hold at all.
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America is a free country where we enjoy a great many rights, such as a First Amendment right to publish paid ads promoting our policy views free from government censorship, and a Second Amendment right to own a handgun. But it does not follow that we also have a right to force other people to pay for those activities. No serious person believes that. And this principle certainly holds true for forcing Americans to pay for abortions.
The logical inconsistency trend in anti-Hyde abortion activism extends to many widely-read commentators trying to discredit the Hyde Amendment by calling it a “decades-old” or “decades-long” ban, as if that is a discrediting factor or an indication of bad policy. Should we also pejoratively refer to Roe v. Wade as “decades-old”? These journalists and activists would surely say “no.” The double standard is clear.
Further, contrary to what some scaremongering activists would have you believe, the Hyde Amendment allows federal tax dollars to fund abortion under limited circumstances such as rape, incest and when the mother’s life is endangered. As such, the provision already provides a significant concession to the pro-abortion rights side of this debate.
These activists and politicians, including President Biden, have long called themselves “pro-choice.” But if the label was ever true before, it certainly isn’t now. Biden’s proposed policy provides no “choice” for the majority of Americans who want no part in being forced to pay for abortions — including brutal and dangerous late-term abortions.
The radicals trying to repeal the Hyde Amendment are not pro-choice. They are simply pro-abortion.
LifeNews Note: Denise Burke is senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and its Center for Legislative Advocacy.