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Pro-life Democrats appeal to Jimmy Carter to save the Hyde Amendment

Jimmy_Carter_Nagel_Photography_Shutterstock.png Former president Jimmy Carter. Credit: Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

The group Democrats for Life of America is appealing to former President Jimmy Carter in its effort to preserve the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment, first enacted in 1976, bars federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake. It is enacted in law each year as a rider to appropriations bills, and is named after its sponsor Rep. Harry Hyde (R-Ill.). 

While Carter was not yet president at the time of the initial passage of the Hyde Amendment, he supported the policy and signed subsequent funding bills into law that included the amendment. In 1977, the federal government shut down three times over abortion funding debates, but the Hyde Amendment survived.

“We are asking President Jimmy Carter (who signed Hyde into law) to please help us in saving it. We are so grateful for your humanitarian work and for everything you did for women and families in office,” said a tweet posted Monday, March 22, by Democrats for Life of America (DFLA). 

“America needs you again, Mr. President. Help us save Hyde,” the group added.

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Hyde Amendment language was absent from a recent $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, a departure from last year’s CARES Act. The CARES Act, which included the abortion funding restrictions, received bipartisan support. Congressional Democratic leaders have also called on President Joe Biden to not include the Hyde Amendment in his budget request for the 2022 fiscal year.

Accompanying the DFLA tweet was a video of various group members pleading with Carter, “as a fellow Democrat, and a fellow American, to please help us save the Hyde Amendment.”

“The Hyde Amendment is vitally important. It protects the millions of Americans who do not want our federal tax dollars funding the violence of abortion, and it has saved millions of lives,” said an unidentified participant in the DFLA video. 

The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute has estimated that the policy has resulted in fewer abortions each year, with a cumulative total of more than 2.4 million lives saved since it was enacted in 1976.

The DFLA video thanked Carter for his past leadership on the issue.

“I know that this is in your heart, I know that it’s the right thing to do, I know you know it’s the right thing to do,” said DFLA member David Donofrio to Carter. “So please join us, and let’s stand up for our children.” 

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Since Carter’s presidency, the Democratic Party has evolved on the issue of abortion. In 1976, the year Carter was elected, the party platform’s only mention of abortion stated that “we fully recognize the religious and ethical nature of the concerns which many Americans have on the subject of abortion,” adding that “we feel, however, that it is undesirable to attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court Decision in this area.” 

Three years earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled in Roe v. Wade that women had a right to a legal abortion prior to the viability of the unborn baby.

The 2020 Democratic Party platform declared that “every woman” should have access to a “safe and legal abortion” and that abortion is “vital to the empowerment of women and girls.” 

The platform further called for a restoration of funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion chain, and supported taxpayer-funded abortion through the repeal of the Hyde and Helms amendments, as well as the Mexico City Policy. 

On Jan. 28, President Joe Biden (D), a Catholic, rescinded the Mexico City Policy, following a tradition set by former presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D) in repealing the policy as one of their first acts in office. Biden, a former supporter of the Hyde Amendment, reversed his support for the policy over a 24-hour period in June 2019. 

Biden announced that he would support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, one day after he said that he would support keeping it in place. At a presidential campaign debate in March, 2020, Biden was challenged by fellow presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over his previous votes for Hyde. Biden said that “if we’re going to have public funding for all healthcare along the line, there is no way you could allow for there to be a requirement that you have Hyde Amendment.”

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