House Democrats Target Hyde as ‘Racist’ Obstacle to Taxpayer-Funded Abortion
Rep. Rosa DeLauro and other Democrats signaled in Tuesday’s hearing that ending Hyde is more of a priority than ever.
Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to correct a misstatement that Sen. Tim Kaine, D.-Va., opposes the Hyde Amendment. Sen. Kaine’s office has advised the Register that, after it was erroneously reported in 2016 that he had shifted his position regarding the amendment, the senator corrected the record by stating publicly, “I support the Hyde Amendment. I haven’t changed that."
On Tuesday, House Democrats led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., held a hearing calling for the repeal of the Hyde amendment, a longstanding, bipartisan appropriations rider barring the use of taxpayer funds for abortion with an exception for cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
The nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, lauded the “historic” House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) Subcommittee hearing as a “crucial step towards Congress finally ending the discriminatory and racist Hyde Amendment.”
This is similar to the rhetoric adopted by presumptive president-elect Joe Biden after he changed his position on the issue in the summer of 2019. “I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and their ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” Biden said. “If I believe healthcare is a right as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code." This statement contrasts sharply with Biden’s past acknowledgement of the conscience concerns over taxpayer funding of abortion in his 1994 statement that “those of us who are opposed to abortions should not be compelled to pay for them.”
Biden is not the only high-profile Catholic Democrat to change his position on taxpayer funding of abortion. Others have shifted on the issue in recent years since the Democratic Party added its repeal to their platform in 2016. With a Biden administration expected to begin in January and a slim majority in the House and special elections in Georgia determining control of the Senate, Democrats signaled in Tuesday’s hearing that ending Hyde is more of a priority than ever.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, another Catholic who is the incoming chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in the hearing that “the Hyde amendment is a discriminatory policy and for more than 40 years it has been routinely extended every year as a legislative rider but the time has come in the current moment to reckon with the norm, with the status quo.”
Discussion of Racism
“While the Labor, HHS, Education bill has carried the Hyde amendment every year since 1976, this is the last year,” Rep. DeLauro said. “The inequities in our country’s health care system that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic — all further expose the impact of the Hyde Amendment. All these issues deny the humanity of people of color and their ability to do well for their families and communities.”
However, Christina Bennett, communications director at the Family Institute of Connecticut, testified against the conception that the Hyde Amendment was racist against people of color like herself. Instead, she said, it had helped protect her and many other blacks from the threat of being aborted.
“I was born in 1981, a year after the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Hyde Amendment,” she said. “My mother faced intense pressure to abort, leading her to schedule an abortion at Mount Sinai hospital in Hartford.” She said her mother changed her mind due to “the kind words of an elderly Black janitor.”
At one point in the hearing, Bennett said that she “will never believe that an amendment that has helped save over 2.4 million lives, many of them Black, is racist. I don’t think that racists are in the business of trying to preserve Black lives and generations of children that will come after them. It’s actually ridiculous to claim that the Hyde Amendment is racist.”
The other witnesses, called by the Democratic majority, had a very different view of the matter. Dr. Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, called the Hyde amendment a “racist policy” and claimed that “the Hyde Amendment builds on the legacy of racism. There is a direct line from the reprehensible policies of our past such as forced sterilization of black women to policies like the Hyde amendment today.”
Bennett commented that “when we’re talking about forced sterilizations, we have to remember that these things were pushed by Margaret Sanger, that these people that were eugenicists that were involved in the abortion industry … that is where we see real racism.”
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger advocated forced sterilization in some cases and spoke before the women’s auxiliary branch of the Ku Klux Klan in 1926. Her “racist legacy” and support for eugenics caused Planned Parenthood of Greater New York to remove her name from their health center this summer.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas highlighted the racist and eugenicist mindset of the pioneers of the abortion movement in his 2019 opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Regarding Alan Guttmacher, the abortionist who founded the organization Palacio now heads, Thomas wrote “when exulting over ‘fantastic … progress’ in expanding abortion, for example, Guttmacher stated that ‘the realization of the population problem has been responsible’ for the change in attitudes. ‘We’re now concerned more with the quality of population than the quantity.’” Thomas cited a 1969 New York Times magazine piece noting that “some black groups saw ‘family planning’ as a euphemism for race genocide’ and believed that ‘black people [were] taking the brunt of the ‘planning’ under Planned Parenthood’s ‘ghetto approach’ to distributing its services.”
Another witness in Tuesday’s hearing was Amanda Beatriz Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund, a group which funds abortions in Texas and is named for a baby-snatching demon in Middle Eastern mythology. She said that “we know firsthand the impact that coverage bans have on the Texans we serve. During the year 2018, 68% of Lilith fund clients were people of color, 45% uninsured, 42% did not have paid employment.”
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., asked Williams if there was “evidence to suggest that being denied access to an abortion has persistent negative effects on a woman’s financial well-being.”
Williams replied that “studies show that when policy makers restrict Medicaid abortion, about 1 in 4 low income people seeking abortion are unable to obtain one.” Speaking from her own experience of obtaining an abortion in college, she said “having a child at that time wasn’t what I was ready for, it was not what I wanted and economic security was a big factor in my decision but like all decisions there are complexities and nuances and economic security wasn’t the only factor.”
Bennett called abortion on demand “a Band-Aid to the economic and health disparities,” and asked the lawmakers to “improve the quality of lives instead of unjustly ending them.”
Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., said it was “outrageous to say that because you’re poor or because you’re black, the solution for your life and your success is to take away your pregnancies.” She also remarked that “we’re not talking about them using their own dollars” but taxpayer funds and “we’re talking about protecting this taxpayer funding and people’s consciences here.” January Marist polling found that 60% of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 37% of those who identify as “pro-choice” and 35% of Democrats.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., ranking member of the appropriations committee, said that efforts to repeal Hyde are “not likely to bear fruit in the next Congress” due to “very little Republican support for it in either the House or the Senate,” and since in the Senate, “the filibuster rule is likely to be maintained.”