Pro-Life Hyde Amendment Hits 40, Provides 2 Million Reasons to Celebrate

By Dustin Siggins Published on September 30, 2016

Forty years ago today, one of the pro-life movement’s first victories after Roe v. Wade passed into law: the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding for most abortions. The annual, bipartisan budget rider has saved more than two million babies from abortion, according to Hyde @ 40, a new report by Dr. Michael New.

However, the Amendment’s future may be at risk. The Democratic Party’s platform promises to repeal of the Amendment because it “impede[s] a woman’s access to abortion,” as does party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Vice-Presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has said he will subordinate his support for Hyde to Clinton’s agenda against it if their ticket wins in November.

What is the Hyde Amendment?

Named for its sponsor, Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, the Amendment was introduced in 1976 to prevent taxpayers from funding most abortions. It was a major victory for the nascent pro-life movement after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The Amendment is an annual rider attached to Congress’s funding for the federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to prevent federal taxpayers from paying for abortions through the state-federal Medicaid program. It originally allowed funding for abortions only in the case of the mother’s life being at risk, but in 1993 the exception was expanded to include rape of the mother and conception through incest.

According to NPR, pro-life Members of Congress allowed the original exceptions and then the expanded exceptions as compromises to get the Amendment onto annual budget bills. Hyde told Congress he was displeased with only being able to prevent abortion funding via Medicaid:

“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,” he told Congress in 1977. “Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the (Medicaid) bill.”

The Amendment didn’t take effect until 1980, as it was challenged up to the U.S. Supreme Court. After it was upheld, it was applied annually to Medicaid with the votes of both parties. According to NPR:

From 1973, when abortion first became legal, until 1980, when the Hyde amendment first took effect, the joint federal-state Medicaid program was paying for roughly 300,000 abortions annually

Effects of Hyde

While pro-life advocates have praised presidents and Congress for including Hyde in funding bills for decades, abortion advocates say it discriminates against poor women. As an example, in a press statement issued on Thursday, the Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds said, “all people deserve the power and resources to make the reproductive decisions right for themselves and their families, including abortion.” According to Yamani Hernandez, her group “recognizes the Hyde Amendment as a key intersection in the fight for racial, economic, and reproductive justice.”

Likewise, the head of a Texas-based abortion group said in the press release that “Hyde hurts our clients and their families because it forces them to pay out of pocket for a procedure that should be recognized by our government as not only a basic human right, but a basic form of medical care that Texans of all socioeconomic backgrounds depend on.”

However, New, an associate scholar of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and political scientist at the University of Michigan, found that Hyde has saved over two million children from abortion. As described in the report’s Executive Summary, the Amendment saves about 60,000 people per year, and has saved 2.13 million children since its inception.

“Two million lives saved is reason to celebrate,” said CLI president Chuck Donovan. “The Hyde Amendment is popular not just with pro-lifers, but with a majority of Americans — people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs who all agree that forcing taxpayers to fund abortion is wrong.”

There have been over 55 million abortions in America since 1973, meaning that Hyde has prevented 3.5 percent of domestic abortions since Roe v. Wade.

The Parties and the Public

A summer 2016 YouGov poll showed the public is behind Hyde, with almost three-quarters of Republicans, over half of Independents and over 40 percent of Democrats in favor of its limitations. This is in keeping with past polls, such as a 2009 CBS poll showing over 60 percent of the public in favor of not funding most abortions with federal dollars.

Republicans have endorsed Hyde, but also in their platform promised to go further — endorsing a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 2016 party nominee Donald Trump has vowed to make Hyde permanent law, which has led to growing support among pro-life voters. The platform declares:

American taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion. As Democrats abandon this four decade-old bipartisan consensus, we call for codification of the Hyde Amendment and its application across the government, including Obamacare. We call for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage.

New told The Stream that he suspects the life-saving Hyde will continue to get support from Republicans, despite Democratic opposition.

“I certainly think that if the Democrats make a move to overturn Hyde, Republicans will certainly vote in favor of Hyde,” he explained. “The Republicans have become a more pro-life party in recent years and a high percentage of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. Supporting Hyde would be smart politically.”

However, New said he is “unsure how the dynamic would play out if Hillary Clinton becomes President and tries to overturn Hyde. Republicans would oppose it, but I cannot say how hard they would fight or if they would risk a government shutdown.”

Hyde Doesn’t Prevent All Federal Funding

Many media outlets and politicians err in reporting that Hyde stops all federal funding for abortions. It prevents most Medicaid funding, but other funding goes to the abortion industry.

The Hyde Amendment almost stopped the Affordable Care Act from passing into law. Approximately one dozen pro-life Democrats, led by then-Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, refused to back the law unless it had Hyde provisions included. President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order to get their support, saying the Order would replace a formal inclusion of Hyde.

That Executive Order proved sufficient to get Democratic votes, but not to stop federal funding for abortions.

Additionally, Planned Parenthood received $60 million in Title X birth control/contraceptive funding in 2014 — an annual funding of its services that includes abortion-inducing drugs and devices. According to New, “there is no good metric of lives lost due to the use of abortifacients. Official statistics (CDC and Guttmacher) only count surgical abortions and chemical abortions (RU -486).”

Other sources of funding for Planned Parenthood were so difficult to parse  that the Government Accountability Office and the Family Research Council were unable to distinguish between state and federal funds.

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