Will the American Taxpayer Be Coerced into Paying for Abortion? The Enemies of the Hyde Amendment Reveal Their Strategy

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
September 2, 2020

As is often said, elections have consequences.

Indeed, with just about sixty days remaining until the national election in the United States, the potential consequences of all the races in 2020 continue to crystallize—and the clarity is truly a difference between life and death.

The Los Angeles Times ran an article by Jennifer Haberkorn with the headline, “House Democrats will try to repeal long-standing ban on federal money for abortions.” This article reveals that what was always suspected is now confirmed: the Democratic leadership in the House will try to repeal the Hyde Amendment from all future federal funding bills, especially those bills related to federal funding for medical programs, such as Medicaid.

Over the past four years, the Democratic Party has lurched towards the left, adopting more and more aggressive stances on matters of policy, especially when it comes to the issue of abortion. The Hyde Amendment is now directly in their crosshairs.

In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across all fifty states. It was, for many conservatives, a bolt out of the blue—it just didn’t seem plausible that the Supreme Court of the United States would invent an entirely new constitutional right not enumerated in the Constitution.

Three years later in 1976, the Hyde Amendment was passed as a moment of clarity in the wake of Roe v. Wade. The questions was raised: If a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion, does she also have the right for federal funding of that abortion, particularly through federal assistance programs such as Medicaid?

From the beginning, the feminist movement fought for an unquestioned federal support for abortion. They presented their argument as one of equity—if a wealthy woman could afford an abortion, equity and equality necessitated that women who couldn’t afford an abortion should have access to federal funds in order to secure what was, after Roe, their supposed constitutional right. The pro-life response was the argument that abortion is morally abhorrent to millions of American taxpayers, who should not be coerced into paying for abortions through their tax dollars.

Given the controversy, in 1976 a majority in both the House and Senate, as a form of compromise, passed the Hyde Amendment. It was named after the late Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, who proposed the measure as a condition for authorizing Medicaid. Thus, the Hyde Amendment has, since 1976, been part of the regular spending reauthorization that has gone through Congress.

The pro-abortion movement, however, has always targeted the Hyde Amendment for elimination. Despite this fact, a large bi-partisan consensus has for decades preserved the amendment—that is until 2016 when the Democratic Party sent a very clear signal that the consensus was crumbling. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party platform, called for an end to the Hyde Amendment.

Four years later, the Democrats have still not been able to pull that off, for a few reasons. First, after the 2016 election, Democrats not only failed to retain the White House, but they did not possess majorities in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. That changed in 2018 when Democrats won the House. The Senate is, for now, the last line of legislative protection for the Hyde Amendment.

That still doesn’t answer the question as to why, over the past two years, Democrats haven’t attempted more vigorously to repeal the Hyde Amendment. The reality is that there are many Democrats who represent swing districts—and these representatives do not want to put their names on any legislative maneuver that brings and end to the Hyde Amendment and thereby would jeopardize their chances for reelection.

In more recent days, however, Democratic leaders in Congress have sent a new signal that is truly important and ominous.

Legislative action, and what actually makes its way to the floor of either chamber, rests in the hands of the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader. Generally, nothing will reach the floor in the House or in the Senate that the Speaker or Majority Leader doesn’t want. Nothing will come to a vote in the House if the Speaker doesn’t allow it.

This is especially important as we consider this recent article from the Los Angeles Times, which reported that the Speaker of the House, San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi, has indicated that she plans to move ahead after the first of the year, regardless of the outcome of the election, towards the removal of the Hyde Amendment. She can probably pull that off in the House, unless Republicans regain control of the chamber in November, which is probably unlikely.

The big question, therefore, comes down to which party will control the Senate after November’s election. This is a massive issue and it may come down to the elections in states like North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona.

Nonetheless, if the Democratic Party gains control of the Senate, retains its control of the House, and if Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump for the Presidency, then the decades-long consensus around the Hyde Amendment will, no doubt, face grave danger. The Democratic Party has been purging itself of pro-life office holders for decades now and it has made a pitch to the left in its own base as an attempt to drive more Democrats to the polls in November—at that point, it will be very difficult for them to backtrack even an inch on that pledge.

Haberkorn continues, “The plan to oppose the restriction on government money reflects the dramatic and widespread reversal of opinion on the subject that Democrats have undergone in the last five years. What was once viewed as an acceptable compromise is now widely seen among Democrats as a prime example of systemic racism that unfairly hurts poor women and women of color by banning abortion in most cases for Medicaid patients.”

Here again we see an argument made about equity and justice—and it is downright deadly. Restricting Medicaid funding from providing abortions, so the Democrats argue, perpetuates a disproportionate impact on the availability of abortions for African Americans and minority women. This is the inevitable logic of the social justice movement that pinpoints any “disparity in outcome” as a matter of systemic injustice.

This horrible argument, however, assumes that abortion is a cultural good—that it promotes the public welfare and is a fundamental right. If abortion, furthermore, is a cultural good, then the existence of a disparity in access must indeed be met with swift action. Christians and other pro-life Americans must face the truth that this argument is real, that it is officially represented now by one of our major political parties, and that it will lead to even more death in the womb. The American taxpayer will be coerced into paying for abortions.

That line of reasoning represents a grotesque distortion of justice. It abdicates any serious moral reasoning about the ethics of abortion. It does not consider the true systemic injustice of abortion, namely, the murder of unborn children.

Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oakland, California, stated, “It’s an issue of racial justice and it’s an issue of discrimination against low-income women, women of color, women who don’t have access to what middle- and upper-income women have in terms of the choice to have an abortion.”

That is the logic of a radical, pro-abortion argument that promulgates the culture of death in this nation. It is staring us right in the face, and brazenly so.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut who heads the subcommittee that has control over federal health programs, according to the Los Angeles Times, told a small group of lawmakers in July that they would not add the Hyde Amendment to any government funding bill beginning next year. That word was leaked by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado. DeLauro went on to say that she considered, “removing the ban from a spending bill this year, but the move was considered futile as Republicans hold the Senate and White House.”

We must follow the logic here. It tells us that if Democrats retain control of the House, secure the Senate, and oust President Trump from the White House, they will move forward with an end to the Hyde Amendment at warp speed.

Keep in mind that former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment just months ago. For decades, he supported the amendment and bragged about it. But there was no way that he could support Hyde and win in the Democratic race, so he reversed course.

Patty Murray, Democratic Senator from Washington State also made it clear that she is working towards momentum to repeal the Amendment in the upper chamber of Congress. Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, furthermore, argued that the pro-abortion movement intended to hold Democrats’ feet to the fire: “We intend to go in with good faith that when we flip the Senate and the White House, that people need to make good on their commitment on this.”

Elections do indeed have consequences. Here is a deadly consequences staring us in the face.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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