Pushing Back Against Biden’s Pro-Abortion Push
In the face of intensified efforts by the White House and other prominent Democrats to fund elective abortions, congressional pro-lifers are rallying in support of the Hyde Amendment.
WASHINGTON — As the Biden White House and prominent congressional Democrats ramp up their efforts to broadly permit taxpayer-funded abortion, pro-life legislators are gearing up to defend the long-standing and most significant protection against allowing federal dollars to go to elective abortions.
“The Hyde Amendment and all of our pro-life policies, every one of them, are facing an existential threat,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, told the Register on Tuesday.
The provision at issue is the 1976 Hyde Amendment, an appropriations rider that has prohibited taxpayer funding of abortion in health-care funds for almost half a century with bipartisan backing.
Many Democratic lawmakers have already stated their plans to repeal the Hyde Amendment in this Congress. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has promised to exclude the amendment from House spending bills, saying it is “one of the biggest barriers to low-income women’s access to health care.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., voiced her support for doing away with the Hyde Amendment in December when she told reporters of the recent push to repeal Hyde, “I myself have been an opponent of the Hyde Amendment long before I came to Congress, so I would be receptive to that happening,” and “it’s long overdue, getting rid of it, in my view.” Pelosi, who is Catholic, called removing the Hyde Amendment a matter of fairness for women in the country.
President Joe Biden changed his position on the issue in the summer of 2019 on the campaign trail. “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and their ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said at the time. “If I believe health care is a right as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
In the past, Biden has voiced conscience concerns over taxpayer funding of abortion, including in a 1994 statement that “those of us who are opposed to abortions should not be compelled to pay for them.”
COVID Relief and Abortion
The president did not appear inclined this week to make any accommodations to pro-life Americans, in terms of his push for taxpayer funding of abortions.
EWTN reporter Owen Jensen asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Tuesday about the concerns pro-life groups have raised with Hyde Amendment protections being omitted from the COVID relief package being considered in the House. Jensen said pro-life groups “are very concerned that millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars will go to the abortion industry in violation of the Hyde Amendment. We know where President Biden stands on the Hyde Amendment. That being said, can this administration now guarantee if the American Rescue Plan is passed that no taxpayer dollars will go to the abortion industry?”
Psaki replied that “the president’s view on the Hyde Amendment is well-known, as you have stated in your question. He also believes that community health centers are a key part of addressing the pandemic, ensuring that people in communities have access to vaccines, have access to treatment and information about making sure they’re healthy and their loved ones are healthy; so that remains a priority to the president. He has shared his view on the Hyde Amendment. I don’t think I have anything new for you.”
Psaki would not directly reply to Jensen’s follow-up asking, “can the administration guarantee that those tax dollars won’t fund abortions?” She said that “three-quarters of the public supports the components of the package, wants to see the pandemic get under control, wants to see people put back to work.” According to a January Marist poll, 58% of U.S. citizens do not want taxpayer funding to go to abortions.
Pledges From Lawmakers
Nearly 200 House Republicans wrote last month to express their “unified opposition to congressional Democrats’ efforts to repeal the Hyde Amendment and other current-law, pro-life appropriations provisions. As part of their pro-abortion crusade, Democrats have taken direct aim at these long-standing, bipartisan protections that generally prevent the federal government from using taxpayer dollars to support abortion procedures.”
The pro-life lawmakers pointed out that the Hyde Amendment has “nearly half a century of bipartisan consensus,” as “no president in American history has ever vetoed an appropriations bill due to its inclusion of the Hyde Amendment.” They also noted that, during the last Democratic presidency, “President Obama maintained the Hyde Amendment in each of his budget proposals.”
In the Senate, 48 Republicans wrote a similar letter expressing their “resolve to guard against any changes to federal law that would unsettle nearly half a century of bipartisan consensus against taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, or otherwise threaten the lives of unborn children.” They vowed to “vote against the advancement of any legislation that would eliminate or weaken the Hyde Amendment or any other current-law pro-life protections, or otherwise undermine existing federal pro-life policy.”
The extremely narrow Democratic control of the Senate means that the three Democratic senators who still support Hyde will be crucial as Congress debates the protections against taxpayer funding of abortion in health-care funding. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., have all stated in recent months that they support the Hyde Amendment.
None of the trio of Catholic senators responded to the Register’s requests for comment regarding their stances on the Hyde Amendment, but Kaine told the Register in December, “I support the Hyde Amendment. I haven’t changed that.” In December, Manchin told National Review that killing “the Hyde Amendment would be foolish, and I’m strongly opposed to this push from some members of Congress.”
Casey has not commented recently on his support for the Hyde Amendment, but he did vote in January 2019, along with Manchin, for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would have made the amendment permanent law.
‘Hijacking’ Important Funding
Rep. Smith, who is also Catholic, recently introduced similar legislation in the House that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act. Smith told the Register that President Biden’s current stance regarding the amendment is “unconscionable,” given that “he was with us on some of these issues. He certainly understood the humanity of the unborn child and the respect that that baby girl or baby boy ought to be afforded, at least when it comes to public funding to effectuate their killing.”
Smith, who has been a member of Congress since 1980, said that, like Biden, many of his congressional colleagues reversed on pro-life issues, noting “[Sen.] Dick Durbin, D-Ill., used to be pro-life. I can go through a long list of former pro-lifers, who, only in their heart of hearts, do they know why they changed. The children haven’t changed, and the co-victims, the mothers, haven’t changed. They need advocates; and when you pay to effectuate their demise, it’s the baby’s death. It’s just not advocacy at all.”
“There are no pro-life Democrats anymore in the House,” Smith said. “When I got elected, there were about 80 pro-life Democrats. … They have just been completely primaried out or defeated in one way or the other.” He did note that Sens. Casey and Manchin remain in the Senate, saying of Manchin that “I think he’s going to be loyal” regarding the Hyde Amendment.
Smith said that the methods the Democrats will use to fund abortion will include attaching it to important bills like the COVID-19 relief package. He called this “a hijacking of an agenda to help people who absolutely need it. A hijacking is underway of very benign and important funding that then gets diverted to killing babies. … They’re going to do everything they can to do it all, to subsidize abortions in the United States, in all of our programs, every program and in foreign aid.”
He said the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life protections need to be renewed, and “the Herculean task that we face is getting it into the bill. The likelihood is that the appropriations bills and the $1.9-trillion COVID relief package will be paying for abortion, but also allowing governors to give money to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists with no strings attached.”
Smith, a personal friend of the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois who authored the amendment, called Hyde “a tremendous human-rights leader.” He recalled “when he was told that the belief was about a million babies had survived because of his amendment. He had a tear in his eye. And now it’s 2.4 million and maybe more.”
Smith also voiced concerns about conscience protections like the Weldon Amendment, an annual appropriations rider that prevents federal, state and local governments receiving federal funds from discriminating against health-care entities that decline to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
He pointed out that during the Obama administration, “it was never enforced, so Catholic entities, hospitals were forced into funding” abortion.
“They will look to get rid of the Weldon Amendment and all conscience protections,” he predicted of the Biden administration, “or do what they did for eight years: put it on the shelf and say it doesn’t exist.”
As for Speaker Pelosi calling Hyde’s impact “unfair” to poor women, Smith said that the taxpayer’s conscience concerns need to be considered when it comes to funding abortion. “The children of the poor deserve protection from violence, and abortion is violence against babies,” he said. “While we can’t stop all abortions or even many abortions, we should not be forced or coerced into funding them for poor women or anyone else, because it’s not just.”
“We want to defend the children of the poor, the children of the rich, the middle class — all of those children are precious beyond words, and you can’t reduce it to ‘fairness,’” he added. “I mean, fairness for whom, the babies? It’s patently unfair for the babies. They lose their lives.”
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