Last week, the House Committee on Appropriations hosted a hearing to push forward a Democratic bill that would eliminate the Hyde amendment, which forbids the federal government from directly reimbursing for elective abortion procedures through Medicaid. In other words, Democratic politicians are making a renewed effort to require taxpayers to directly underwrite abortion procedures.
The Hyde amendment is a rider that Congress has added on a bipartisan basis to every relevant spending bill since 1976, an effort in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade to prevent Americans who oppose abortion from having their tax dollars used to fund it. Hyde once had such strong bipartisan support that, the first time it was added to a federal budget, 247 Democrats in the House and 48 Democrats in the Senate voted for it.
Even with Hyde in place today to ensure no direct reimbursements of abortion procedures, plenty of taxpayer money flows to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, which receives about $450 million annually from the federal government. But that isn’t good enough for Democratic politicians, who for the last several years have set their sights on eliminating Hyde entirely.
In 2016, the Democratic Party platform for the first time called for an end to Hyde, insisting that it disadvantages low-income women who need Medicaid to cover their abortion procedures. In June 2019, after having supported the Hyde amendment for decades, then-candidate Joe Biden came out against the amendment for the first time in his long political career.
Considering the intense pressure he received from left-wing activists on the subject, it seems clear that Biden decided to abandon Hyde in an effort to stay competitive for the presidential nomination. Evidently he believed that continuing to back Hyde in today’s radical Democratic Party could be unpopular enough to disqualify him, especially compared to a host of presidential candidates who wholeheartedly support taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.
Like Biden did when he announced his Hyde flip-flop, Democrats are positioning their anti-Hyde campaign as an effort to assist disadvantaged women. The hearing last week was entitled “The Impact on Women Seeking an Abortion but are Denied Because of an Inability to Pay,” and three of the four witnesses insisted that the Hyde amendment amounts to discrimination that prevents low-income women from obtaining necessary health care.
But abortion isn’t health care; it’s a procedure that ends a human life, a reality that informed the once-bipartisan choice to safeguard Americans from having to support it financially.
One study by the Guttmacher Institute, a Planned Parenthood offshoot, found that in states that use their own tax dollars to pay for abortions undergone by Medicaid recipients, the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients is 3.9 times the rate among nonrecipients, “while in states that do not permit Medicaid funding for abortions, Medicaid recipients are only 1.6 times as likely as nonrecipients to have abortions.”
The precise number of lives saved by the Hyde amendment is a matter of dispute, but according to a 2016 report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an organization affiliated with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, “the best research indicates that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million unborn children” since the policy was first enacted in 1976.
That’s an average of 50,000 human lives saved from abortion each year.
Though Democrats almost certainly won’t reach their goal of eliminating Hyde if Republicans maintain narrow control of the incoming Senate, this vigorous new effort marks the culmination of a long shift in the Left’s view of abortion — from believing it should be “safe, legal, and rare” to demanding taxpayer funding for a procedure they now view as a social good.