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Hyde Amendment Under Attack

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By Fr. Shenan J. Boquet [7]

The Hyde Amendment is one of the most important pro-life achievements in U.S. history. But right now, it is under serious threat.

For those who are unaware, the Hyde Amendment, named after pro-life Rep. Henry Hyde, is an amendment that has been appended to every appropriations (i.e., spending) bill since 1976. The amendment clearly states that taxpayer dollars cannot be used to fund abortions.

Last year, pro-life scholar Michael New analyzed the impact of the Hyde Amendment. According to his analysis, from 1976 to 2020, the Hyde Amendment stopped some 2.4 million abortions.

How? Simple. Research consistently shows that reducing funding for abortion also reduces abortions. By ensuring that our hard-earned tax dollars do not get used by pro-abortion politicians to abort innocent unborn babies, the Hyde Amendment has saved countless lives.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that pro-life political involvement has been for naught,” Dr. New said in an interview [8] last year. “There are 2.4 million women out there who have been spared a lifetime of regret because of the Hyde amendment and there are 2.4 million people walking around today who owe their lives to the Hyde Amendment.”

One of the most important facts about the Hyde Amendment is that it has been passed every year regardless of who was in power – Democrats or Republicans. That is, it has been a truly bipartisan amendment. While there have always been some extremist pro-abortion Democrats who have wanted to get rid of the amendment, there has always been enough consensus to ensure that spending bills were protected by it.

Until now.

Democrats Ditch the Hyde Amendment

One of President Biden’s campaign promises was to scrap the Hyde Amendment. And now it appears that Democrats in Congress are working to make that happen.

A few weeks ago, the House Appropriations Committee advanced an appropriations bill that conspicuously lacked the Hyde Amendment. Pro-life Republican Rep. Tom Cole attempted to introduce the amendment, but to no avail.

In a speech, Rep. Cole noted that President Biden had consistently supported the Hyde Amendment throughout his time in the U.S. Senate, but only flip-flopped on the issue while running for President.  “There is no moral equivalent to life and death,” Rep. Cole noted in his speech [9]. “The preservation of one of our nation’s most enduring compromises to protect life and respect religious beliefs goes back to our founding principles. Any other issue falls far short of that standard. That is why we offer this amendment first. That is why this amendment has unanimous support on our side. And that is why we will vigorously fight to ensure this amendment is included in any final agreement.”

The appropriations committee voted 32-27 against Cole’s amendment [10]. Shortly thereafter, the appropriations bill was approved in a 219-208 party line vote by the full House, which is controlled by the Democrats. This marks the first time in some 45 years [11] that the House has passed a spending bill without the life-protecting amendment.

One prominent pro-abortion Democrat, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, attempted to defend [12] the removal of the Hyde Amendment, decrying it as “discriminatory.”

“I am proud that this bill promotes equal treatment for women through increased funding for Title X and by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment,” she said. “But I do believe repealing the Hyde Amendment is the best thing we can do to support our mothers and families and help prevent, rather than penalize unwanted pregnancies and later, riskier and more costly abortions.”

This is the kind of double-speak that abortion supporters have to use to defend using our money to kill unborn children! Somehow preventing taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions is “discriminatory,” while paying for the killing of unborn children somehow supports “families.”

Infuriatingly, the two most prominent figures pushing for the end to the Hyde Amendment are also the two politicians who most conspicuously tout their alleged “devout” Catholic faith – President Joe Biden, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In response to this attack on the unborn, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement [13] strongly decrying the effort to scrap the amendment.

“The House has voted in a way that is completely out of step with the will of the American people who overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer-funded abortion,” they noted. “The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives since its enactment. Without it, millions of poor women in desperate circumstances will make the irrevocable decision to take the government up on its offer to end the life of their child.”

They added, “Funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to kill in violation of their consciences, are grave abuses of human rights. We call on the Senate to redress this evil in H.R. 4502, and for Congress to ultimately pass appropriations bills that fully support and protect human dignity, and the most vulnerable among us.”

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Hope Remains

Fortunately, the passage of the appropriations bill by the House is not the end of the story. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and while Democrats hold a narrow majority there, it appears that there is yet hope that it will not pass.

Democrat Senator Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, told Chad Pergram of Fox News [14] that he suspects the bill may not pass without the Hyde Amendment.

Pergram reported: “It’s probable the House and Senate will have to do some sort of interim spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September. Such a Band-Aid bill simply renews all spending at old levels and restores old policy on a temporary basis. That means the Hyde Amendment remains in place. Congress will likely pass an amalgamated spending package for all of the measures later in the fall or winter. Stripping the Hyde Amendment on that mega-bill could be enough to spark a government shutdown on its own. So, pro-choice Democrats are unlikely to go to the mat the over the Hyde Amendment.”

In other words, if the Democrats stick to their intent to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, they would be in for a fight that they would likely lose, and that would come with significant political costs. As Pergram notes, that includes the risk of galvanizing pro-life activists into pushing back and perhaps even strengthening the bipartisan commitment to the Hyde Amendment.

However, even if this attempt to gut the Hyde Amendment fails, it stands as proof of just how deadly serious President Biden and the Democrats are about rejecting even the most commonsense and widely supported compromise measures on abortion.

Indeed, in addition to removing the Hyde Amendment, the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee also stripped the appropriations bill of the Weldon amendment – an amendment included in spending bills since 2005 that prohibits government funds from going to programs that discriminate against health care workers who object to abortion.

As I was concluding this article for publication, I learned that that the Senate voted [15] for a budget amendment to its multi-trillion-dollar spending bill that bans taxpayer-funding of abortions for any federal funds authorized under the bill.

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma introduced a resolution amendment that protects against taxpayer funding of abortion. His amendment to prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for funding of abortions [16] and abortion-related discrimination was successfully adopted by a vote of 50-49 [17] to the Democrats’ partisan budget resolution.

The amendment, if adopted by Congress in the final budget resolution, would ensure that the budget will comply with the long-standing Hyde amendment, which bars the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortion, and the Weldon amendment, which protects health care providers who refuse to participate in abortion from discrimination.

The House of Representatives returns from recess the week of August 23rd where they will reconcile the Senate’s budget with their own. So, please join me in praying that the budget amendment by the Senate will be adopted by Congress. Also, let us call our representatives in Congress, asking them to defend human life and protect freedom of conscience.

By the way, the next time you hear the Democrats proclaim that they want abortion to be “safe, legal and rare,” just remember that they are trying to make you pay for abortions with your taxpayer dollars, and they are actively seeking to undermine the rights of pro-life health care workers to follow their consciences.

Clearly, there is nothing moderate about that.

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