Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, may well have saved the Hyde Amendment this month by pledging his support for the ban on taxpayer-funded abortions, but Republicans and pro-life groups have no intention of letting the matter drop.
House Republicans last week launched “18 Days for H.R. 18,” a floor campaign seeking to force a vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act. The legislation would codify into law the prohibition on using federal dollars for most abortions. The ban has been part of every budget since 1976.
The House Democratic leadership has rejected dozens of Republican requests for a vote, but the effort serves as a daily reminder that President Biden omitted the Hyde provision from his budget proposal last month. The floor campaign will continue until Congress’ August recess.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said in a June 22 address to kick off the campaign that the Hyde Amendment and its poll numbers have not changed, but Democrats have.
“By putting Hyde on the chopping block, the message they are sending is clear and chilling,” Mr. McCarthy said. “That the radical demands of the socialist left drown out common sense, science and the views of most Americans. That the party of ‘safe, legal and rare’ is now the party of abortion on demand.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, also would prevent abortion funding through federal agencies and require the Affordable Care Act to be Hyde-compliant.
Republicans cited a Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll from January that found 58% of American adults oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions in the U.S., 38% support it and 77% oppose taxpayer funding for procedures abroad.
“The majority of Americans agree that taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund abortion,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, said on the House floor. “Democrats should listen.”
Mr. Biden set off an uproar on the right by excluding the Hyde language from his fiscal year 2022 budget. Without the language, taxpayers could be on the hook for abortion procedures through programs such as Medicaid for the first time since the Ford presidency.
Three weeks later, Mr. Manchin effectively scotched the proposal by saying, “I’m going to support Hyde in every way possible.” He indicated that he would withhold his crucial vote in the 50-50 Senate unless the language is included in the budget bill.
Even so, pro-life advocates and Republicans continue to hammer the Democratic Party on the issue, revealing their concerns about the unpredictable nature of the budget process and their confidence that Hyde is a winner from a political standpoint.
The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List last week launched a six-figure digital ad campaign linking the anti-Hyde effort to six House Democrats and two of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats: Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael G. Warnock of Georgia.
“Now they want to overturn decades of bipartisan consensus that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for abortions,” says the anti-Kelly ad. “That’s right. Kelly and his radical allies want to force you to pay for abortions, even painful late-term abortions.”
Students for Life of America held Friday a 200-person “life chain” across the Connecticut Avenue Bridge in Washington as part of the pro-life movement’s #HydeSavesLives campaign.
The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute estimated in 2020 that the Hyde Amendment had prevented 2.4 million elective abortions since 1976.
“It’s good news that Sen. Manchin says he’ll support Hyde, and we hope he’ll encourage his colleagues to do the same,” said Students for Life spokesperson Kristi Hamrick. “Every year, it’s a team effort, and it’s not over till it’s over.”
Even if Mr. Biden’s Hyde-less budget proposal is dead on arrival, Democrats have other avenues to direct federal dollars toward abortion.
The House Appropriations Committee last week released a draft spending bill that eliminates two parts of the so-called Hyde family: the Dornan Amendment, which blocks taxpayer funding for most abortions in the District of Columbia, and the Smith Amendment, which bans such funding for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.
Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa L. DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, has argued that Hyde unfairly prevents low-income women, including minorities, from accessing abortion services.
“The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy,” Ms. DeLauro said at a December hearing. “Now is the time to empower all women to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians inserting themselves into the doctor’s office.”
During his first week in office, Mr. Biden repealed the Mexico City policy, which bars U.S. aid for abortion advocacy and procedures abroad. Other Democratic presidents have done the same.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said that under the Biden administration, “longstanding policies that keep taxpayers out of the abortion business are under assault like never before.”
“If the Dornan and Smith Amendments are scrapped, taxpayers would be forced to pay for as many as 1,500 more abortions each year in D.C. alone,” she said in a June 23 statement. “Pro-abortion Democrats’ agenda is deeply unpopular with most Americans.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said in December that she has long opposed Hyde. Mr. Biden supported it for decades until he announced during the Democratic presidential primary campaign in June 2019 that he had changed his mind.
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said.
Republicans have not hesitated to dredge up Mr. Biden’s past. Mr. Smith cited a letter from Mr. Biden’s Senate days in which he told his constituents that the Hyde Amendment would “protect both the woman and her unborn child.”
“He said in another letter, ‘I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions. … Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.’ So says Joe Biden in the past,” Mr. Smith said on the floor. “I wholeheartedly agree.”