- - Monday, March 1, 2021

The Biden administration has promised to bring unity and healing to America. Part of that promise is a pledge to end systemic racism in the U.S. 

But there’s a movement brewing in the Democratic Party that will lead the Biden administration astray. Prominent Democrats, including Joe Biden himself, are calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. They argue that the Hyde Amendment is a “discriminatory policy” and that poor women, especially poor women of color, would benefit from its repeal. 

Yet, these arguments entirely miss the mark. The Hyde Amendment prevents discrimination; it does not promote it. That’s because the Hyde Amendment is one of the few remaining legal barriers to the abortion industry’s systematic and racist exploitation of people of color. To truly fight racism, the Biden administration must keep the Hyde Amendment in place. 

The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1976. It’s a simple measure that can be added to any spending bill to prevent federal funds, including funds for Medicaid, from paying for abortions.

Since 1976, nearly every annual federal spending bill has included the Hyde Amendment, and up until the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden supported it. 

There’s a lot to say in defense of the Hyde Amendment. In a political climate increasingly marked by extreme political divisions, the Hyde Amendment is a common sense and widely popular measure to protect the conscience of American taxpayers who don’t believe the federal government should be subsidizing abortion. But most importantly, the Hyde Amendment protects America’s Black community from the ravages of the abortion industry. 

For Black Americans, abortion is the leading cause of death, above even killers like heart disease and cancer. For every 1,000 Black babies born in America, an average of 474 are aborted. In many of America’s cities, the Black abortion rate even outstrips the Black birth rate. In New York City, for example, thousands more Black babies are aborted than are born alive.

All told, millions of Black lives have been lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade was first decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. And this is no accident. Abortion in America has its roots in racism and White supremacy: a fact the nation’s largest abortion provider — Planned Parenthood — refuses to face. Last year, a diverse coalition of more than 100 Black leaders boldly pointed out that though the organization publicly supports the Black Lives Matter movement, this does not translate to the most vulnerable Black Americans: the preborn. If the measure of an institution’s complicity in systemic racism today is its disproportionate impact on Black lives, then the abortion industry is, without question, systemically racist.

For this reason, it is completely false when pro-abortion politicians argue that the Hyde Amendment blocks access to abortion for poor Black women. Across the country, Black women experience the highest abortion rate of any demographic, nearly five times higher than White women. And even with the Hyde Amendment in place, the abortion industry already targets the poor with great success; close to half of the women who get abortions in America live below the federal poverty line. Perhaps this is at least partly why only 2/3 of Black Democratic voters believe abortion should be “totally legal” versus 97% of their White counterparts.

Abortion advocates talk about abortion access as if getting an abortion were like picking up a life-saving prescription or receiving necessary medical care. But abortion is nothing like that. Abortion is the intentional killing of a preborn child; it snuffs out life in the womb, inflicting manifest physical harm on the children it kills and the families it destroys. 

When you pierce the political rhetoric surrounding abortion, it’s obvious that increasing access to abortion always means increasing the rate at which babies die. But Black communities already experience an infant mortality rate over two times greater than White communities, with infant deaths from complications with low birth rate almost four times that of Whites. 

At a certain point, we have to start calling abortion what it is: a form of Black genocide. Is repealing a piece of legislation that halts the abortion industry’s exploitation of Black people really a way to fight discrimination? Is killing Black people the way to end racism? 

The Hyde Amendment alone won’t halt the advance of abortion in America, but it does do something to protect Black lives. There certainly is lethal, racist inequality in America today, but the Hyde Amendment isn’t the problem; abortion is. It’s time we called out the racism of the abortion industry. And if the Biden administration seriously wants to fight racism, then it won’t repeal one of the few legal measures standing in the way of abortion’s Black genocide.

• Rev. Dean Nelson is the executive director of Human Coalition Action. 

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