Pro-lifers push to preserve Hyde amendment

DFLA Pro-life Democrats | Aaron of L.A. Photography/Shutterstock

Pro-lifers have launched a push to encourage President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to preserve the Hyde amendment.

The Hyde amendment, named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, is a longstanding federal policy first enacted shortly after Roe vs. Wade. It prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for most elective abortions, and includes exceptions for cases involving rape, incest, or a maternal mortality risk. 

However, since the policy is not permanent law, it must be attached to individual appropriations bills in order to take effect.

As a candidate for president in 2020, Biden reversed his previous support for the Hyde amendment and called for its elimination. 

In a Monday opinion piece for Newsweek, two members of the group Democrats for Life - Sophie Trist, the group’s messaging director, and Xavier Bisits, the vice president - wrote that Democrats should support the Hyde Amendment. They argued that the party “should focus on progressive, pro-life policies that protect the well being of both pregnant people and their children.”

“As liberals and proponents of intersectional feminism, we cannot ignore that the United States has a history of targeted sterilization and eugenicist policies,” Trist and Bisits wrote. “In a country with the thinnest safety net in the developed world, subsidizing abortion rather than spending money to support families reflects a gross misplacement of priorities.

A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll released in January found that a majority of Americans oppose the use of tax dollars to fund elective abortion procedures, either in the United States or abroad. 

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, wrote in a piece for Roll Call on Tuesday that the Hyde Amendment “has come to stand for the larger principle that Americans should never be forced to participate in abortion in any form — whether by directly paying for abortions, subsidizing abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, funding groups that promote abortion on demand overseas, or by any of the myriad ways the abortion lobby seeks to exploit the public purse.”

The Susan B. Anthony List illustrated on its website what it called the “family tree” of comparable policies designed to prevent taxpayer funds from covering abortion-related procedures. 

In an April 22 letter to congressional leaders regarding infrastructure proposals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated its support of the Hyde Amendment, writing, “any health policy-related provisions in the bill that could be interpreted to permit the subsidization of abortions or subsidization of health plans that include coverage of abortions must be accompanied by Hyde Amendment protections to prevent such subsidization.”

Earlier this year, the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus leaders, and other lawmakers urged Biden in a letter to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and similar policies, describing these policies as part of “long-standing structural racism and inequities in our health care system.” 

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