A quick 5-point primer on the Hyde Amendment

By Dave Andrusko

By now, readers of National Right to Life News are fully aware that the Biden-Harris administration, working in tandem with congressional Democrats, has set its sights on torpedoing the Hyde Amendment, which for 44 years has been a shining example of bipartisan consensus. 

By contrast, National Right to Life occupies a front row in defense of this rider attached annually to the appropriations bill that includes funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and which applies only to the funds contained in that bill.

NRLC will be publishing articles that help readers understand that, first and foremost, the “Hyde Amendment” means ensuring that the American public will not be forced to support abortion with their tax dollars. And that well over 2 million lives have been saved because of the Hyde Amendment named after the great pro-life hero, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Il.)

Two great places to start are nrlc.org/hyde; and NRLC’s “State of Abortion, 2021,” beginning on page 13.

Drawing primarily on these resources, we could offer 50 bullet points. Today we’ll discuss just five. 

As this battle heats up, it’s important that the public know it was Biden-Harris, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Schumer who chose to initiate the confrontation. This intentionally divisive strategy comes from a President who in his inaugural address said, “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this–Bringing America together.”

They, not we, decided that the way of “bringing us together” is to launch a frontal assault on a policy that brought Republicans and Democrats together going back all the way back to the 1970s. 

Our five points for today…

#1. “[B]y 1976, the federal Medicaid program was paying for about 300,000 elective abortions annually,  and the number was escalating rapidly,” NRLC wrote in State of Abortion, 2021. “If a woman or girl was Medicaid-eligible and wanted an abortion, then abortion was deemed to be ‘medically necessary’ and federally reimbursable.  It should be emphasized that ‘medically necessary’ is, in this context, a term of art – it conveys nothing other than that the woman was pregnant and sought an abortion from a licensed practitioner.” 

These huge numbers illustrate why it is credible to argue that up to 2.4 million babies were saved, because of the Hyde Amendment

#2. The first major victory for our Movement was the 1980 Harris v. McRae decision. The Supreme Court held “It simply does not follow that a woman’s freedom of choice carries with it a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices. . . . Although government may not place obstacles in the path of a women’s exercise of her freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation.” It is difficult looking back over four decades to understand what an important victory we won by the narrowest of margins, 5-4.

#3. One of the false fronts erected by pro-abortionists to make its attack on the Hyde Amendment seem more impressive than it is in reality is to allege that it discriminates against the poor. “Not at all,” says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “The amendment covers all health programs funded through appropriations bills for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education – not only programs covering the poor. And Congress has enacted the same policy in programs for the military, federal employees, and others who are not poor. Moreover, low-income Americans have often been more likely than others to oppose abortion.’ [Boldface added.]

#4. One of most devious stratagems, even by pro-abortion standards, is to insist that if only people “really” understood the Hyde Amendment, the support for it would disappear into thin air. What that means in practice is to frontload questions in a manner that is both intentionally dishonest and gleefully disingenuous. The simple truth is that support for limitations on federal funding of abortion goes back to the very beginning and extends through today.

Drawing on the latest Marist Poll, NRLC wrote back in January that “The baseline number in the Marist poll who ‘oppose using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion’—58% —is solid and consistent with prior polling. What is noticeable is that 65% of Independents and even 31% of Democrats oppose federal funding of abortion. Note as well when it comes to support/oppose ‘using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries’—another point of conflict – a majority of 77% opposes. That includes more than six in ten of those who identify as pro-choice (64%).” And

#5. Why are pro-abortionists obsessed—no lesser word will do—with eliminating the Hyde Amendment? They offer up the usual word salad but the explanation is strikingly simple: there are never—never—enough abortions. 

NRLC put it perfectly when it wrote “There is abundant empirical evidence that where government funding for abortion is not available under Medicaid or the state equivalent program, at least one-fourth of the Medicaid-eligible women carry their babies to term, who would otherwise procure federally-funded abortions. Some pro-abortion advocacy groups have claimed that the abortion-reduction effect is substantially greater–one-in-three, or even 50 percent.”

All those deaths prevented. All those “unwanted” babies carried to term.  

No wonder they hate the Hyde Amendment.