Abortion demonstrators are seen near the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 4, 2020. The Hyde Amendment would prevent federal funding for abortion as a permanent part of the law. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In eliminating the Hyde Amendment in spending bills for fiscal year 2022, the “pro-abortion” Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee “destroy over 40 years of previously unprecedented bipartisan support for a measure aimed at saving human lives,” said the president of National Right to Life.
“This is a campaign by pro-abortion Democrats to ensure that abortion is available on demand, for any reason, at any time and paid for with taxpayer dollars,” Carol Tobias said.
She made the comments late July 15 after the committee marked up the legislation.
“The most egregious aspect of the bill presented today is the removal of the Hyde Amendment, which protects lives and prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., during the markup session.
Hyde first became law in 1976 to prohibit federal funds appropriated through the Labor Department, the Health and Human Services Department and related agencies from being used to cover abortion or fund health plans that cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.
Hyde has been reenacted in spending bills every year since it was first passed.
House Democrats said they had planned to keep Hyde out of spending bills because President Joe Biden released his proposed budget May 28 without the amendment, according to an ABC News report.
ABC quoted House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., as saying at a July 12 hearing of the committee: “Allowing the Hyde Amendment to remain on the books is a disservice to our constituents. We are finally doing what is right for our mothers, our families and our communities by striking this discriminatory amendment once and for all.”
DeLauro, like Biden, is a Catholic who supports keeping abortion legal.
Jennifer Popik, legislative director of National Right to Life, cited data showing that Hyde has “saved over 2 million American lives” since 1976.
“The Hyde Amendment has proven to be the greatest domestic abortion-reduction measure ever enacted by Congress,” she added in a statement.
Also missing from the appropriations bills was Weldon Amendment language to protect the conscience rights of medical providers and prevent them from being forced to participate in an abortion.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who is Catholic, told the committee members: “I will tell you as a practicing physician, the Weldon Amendment is incredibly important at protecting people with deeply held conscience and religious beliefs from being forced to participate in something they don’t agree with.”
Another Catholic member of Congress, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., issued a statement July 15 lamenting the move by House Democrats to break from the decades of bipartisan consensus on Hyde “to advance legislation that would force U.S. taxpayers to pay for abortion-on-demand.”
The majority of the American people remain opposed to forcing taxpayers to fund elective abortion, said Smith.
“Polling consistently shows that a majority of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion — nearly six in 10,” he said, citing a recent a Marist poll. “Another eight in 10 Americans think laws can protect both the well-being of a woman and the health of her unborn child.”
Smith, who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, and many other pro-life leaders have noted how Biden as a senator always supported the Hyde Amendment.
In a 1994 letter to a constituent, he said that “on no fewer than 50 occasions,” he had voted against federal funding of abortions. “Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” he said. In a 2007 memoir, he similarly stated he similarly said he was against federal funding of abortion.
In June 2019, Biden declared he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment. The new York Times quoted him as saying: “If I believe heath care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code. I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right.”
The “ZIP code” refence was in relation to his opposition to the efforts in a number of states to enact restrictions on abortion.
Smith is the author of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2021, or H.R. 18, which would make Hyde and similar provisions permanent. He has 166 co-sponsors.
On June 23, in a late afternoon vote, all 218 Democrats in the House approved a procedural “previous question” motion that prevented the House from debating and voting on the measure. The Republican vote against the motion was 209.
Smith told Catholic News Service that House Republicans then began a series of “unanimous consent requests” on the floor asking that H.R. 18 be immediately discharged from three committees and brought to the floor for debate and a vote. McCarthy made the first request, “followed by others including me. We are going to do this every day until the August recess.”
Over the past couple of months, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee chairman, individual bishops, the head of the Catholic Health Association and several pro-life organizations, including March for Life, the Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life and Students for Life of America have called on Americans to write to their members of Congress demanding the Hyde Amendment be included in spending bills.
The USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities is asking Catholics and all “people of goodwill” to sign an online petition, www.notaxpayerabortion.com, urging Congress not to let federal funds be used to pay for abortions. The petition, “Save Hyde. Save Lives,” will be sent to members of Congress and staff. As of late July 16, the petition had 121,000 signatures.
The spending measures approved by the House Appropriations Committee will now go to the full House for a vote.