Editor’s Note: This column was co-authored by Michael J. New, Ph.D.
September 30 marks the 44th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, the federal policy that limits taxpayer funding for abortion in Medicaid. As of July 2020, the lives of more than 2.4 million Americans – our friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues and family members – have been saved by this critical policy. That’s approximately 60,000 unborn children every year.
The Hyde Amendment has a superb legacy. First passed in 1976, it went through a variety of legal challenges before being upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980 – one of the first major victories for the fledging right to life movement after Roe v. Wade imposed abortion on demand nationwide. For nearly half a century, it has remained popular on Capitol Hill, and, as a funding-related amendment needing annual votes, has passed every year.
Both sides of the debate agree the Hyde Amendment reduces abortion, a goal that was once universal. In 2009, the Guttmacher Institute – the research arm closely associated with Planned Parenthood – published a literature review finding that limits on Medicaid coverage of abortion effectively reduce abortion rates. This summer, I (Michael) revised my 2016 analysis of the Hyde Amendment, arriving at a total of 2.4 million lives saved.
The millions of women and unborn children protected by the Hyde Amendment make it one of the greatest public policy success stories in American history. And since abortion takes a particularly heavy toll on minority groups, with Black women experiencing abortion at a rate four times that of white women, the lifesaving impact of Hyde is felt in an especially consequential way in communities of color.
It’s no wonder the Hyde Amendment has widespread support that transcends partisan politics. Recent polling by Marist shows 60 percent of voters – including 35 percent of Democrats, 37 percent of self-described pro-choice voters, and 55 percent of Independents – oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. This tracks with a substantial body of polling done over the years showing public opinion on the issue remains quite stable and variations in question wording do little to change the results.
The Hyde Amendment has long stood as evidence that members of both political parties can work together and find common ground, even on an issue as polarizing and divisive as abortion. When it was first introduced it passed with the support of 103 House Democrats. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama routinely signed funding bills with Hyde Amendment protections.
However, despite this outstanding track record, the Hyde Amendment is now in greater danger than ever. In recent years, the Democratic Party has moved sharply to the left on abortion. The party platform now explicitly calls for eliminating the Hyde Amendment, thus forcing taxpayers to pay for the destruction of innocent human life. None of the major candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020 supported the Hyde Amendment.
After years of voting for the Hyde Amendment as a U.S. senator, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reversed his position last summer and announced that he now opposes it. He is now joined by over 180 House Democrats.
Meanwhile, President Trump and his administration have worked from day one to stop the promotion of abortion on taxpayers’ dime. In particular he has strengthened and expanded the Mexico City Policy which prevents U.S. foreign aid dollars from being funneled to overseas groups that perform or promote abortions. Additionally, the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule prevents taxpayer-funded Title X grantees from co-locating with abortion facilities or doing abortion referrals, consistent with federal law and the will of Americans. This contrasts starkly with Democratic Party leaders’ extremism and sets it up to be a key issue in this election year.
The stakes could not be higher. It is not an understatement to say that the decision of the voters will determine whether little boys and girls live or die. If President Trump is re-elected, the Hyde Amendment will survive to see its 45th anniversary next year – and so will another 60,000 children waiting to be born. Conversely, if Joe Biden is elected and his party regains full control of Congress, there is a good chance we will be mourning the demise of the same. To Americans of every political persuasion: please choose wisely.
State Senator Patricia Puertas Rucker represents West Virginia’s 16th District. She is a member of Susan B. Anthony List’s National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus.
Author: State Senator Patricia Rucker
Source: Town Hall: The Hyde Amendment Turns 44: A Lifesaving Policy is in Peril