Nowhere to Hyde: Biden, Democrats under siege for taxpayer-funded abortions

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Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, may well have saved the Hyde Amendment earlier this month by pledging his support for the ban on taxpayer-funded abortion, but Republicans and pro-life groups have no intention of letting the matter drop.

House Republicans launched last week “18 Days for H.R. 18,” a floor campaign seeking to force a vote on the No Federal Funding for Abortion Act, which would codify into law the prohibition on federal dollars for most abortions that has been part of every budget since 1976.

Not surprisingly, the dozens of GOP requests for a vote have been rejected by the House Democratic leadership, but the effort, which runs until the August recess, has served as a daily reminder that President Biden omitted the Hyde provision last month from his budget proposal.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy argued in his June 22 kick-off address that while the Hyde Amendment and its poll numbers have not changed, Democrats have.

“By putting Hyde on the chopping block, the message they are sending is clear and chilling,” said Mr. McCarthy in his June 22 kick-off address. “That the radical demands of the socialist left drown out common sense, science and the views of most Americans. That the party of ‘safe, legal and rare’ is now the party of abortion on demand.”

In addition to making Hyde permanent, the bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, would prevent abortion funding through federal agencies and require the Affordable Care Act to be Hyde-compliant.

Republicans cited a Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll from January that found 58% of American adults oppose using tax dollars to pay for U.S. abortions versus 38% support, while 77% oppose taxpayer funding for procedures abroad.

“The majority of Americans agree that taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund abortion,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, on the House floor. “Democrats should listen.”

Mr. Biden set off an uproar on the right by excluding the Hyde language from his Fiscal Year 2022 budget, raising the possibility that taxpayers could find themselves on the hook for abortion procedures through programs such as Medicaid for the first time since the Ford presidency.

Three weeks later, Mr. Manchin effectively scotched the proposal by saying that, “I’m going to support Hyde in every way possible,” indicating that he would withhold his must-have vote in the 50-50 Senate unless the language was included.

Even so, pro-life advocates and Republicans continue to hammer the Democratic Party on Hyde, revealing both their concerns about the unpredictable nature of the budget process as well as their confidence that from a political standpoint, Hyde is a winner.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List launched last week a six-figure digital ad campaign targeting six House Democrats and two of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats — Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia — linking them to the anti-Hyde effort.

“Now they want to overturn decades of bipartisan consensus that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for abortions,” says the anti-Kelly ad. “That’s right. Kelly and his radical allies want to force you to pay for abortions, even painful late-term abortions.”

Students for Life of America held Friday a 200-person “life chain” across the Connecticut Avenue Bridge in Washington, D.C., as part of the pro-life movement’s #HydeSavesLives campaign.

“It’s good news that Sen. Manchin says he’ll support Hyde and we hope he’ll encourage his colleagues to do the same,” said Students for Life spokesperson Kristi Hamrick. “Every year, it’s a team effort, and it’s not over ‘til it’s over.”

Even if Mr. Biden’s Hyde-less budget proposal is dead on arrival, Democrats have other avenues through which to direct federal dollars for abortion.

The House Appropriations Committee released last week a draft spending bill that eliminates two parts of the so-called “Hyde family”: the Dornan Amendment, which blocks taxpayer funding for most abortions in the District of Columbia, and the Smith Amendment, which bans such funding for the Federal Employee Health Benefits program.

The committee’s chair, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, has argued that Hyde unfairly prevents low-income women, including minority women, from accessing abortion services.

“The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy,” Ms. DeLauro said at a December hearing. “Now is the time to empower all women to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians inserting themselves into the doctor’s office.”

In his first week in office, Mr. Biden repealed the Mexico City policy, which bars U.S. foreign aid for abortion advocacy and procedures abroad, as other Democratic presidents have done.

SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said that under the Biden administration, “longstanding policies that keep taxpayers out of the abortion business are under assault like never before.”

“If the Dornan and Smith Amendments are scrapped, taxpayers would be forced to pay for as many as 1,500 more abortions each year in D.C. alone,” she said in a June 23 statement. “Pro-abortion Democrats’ agenda is deeply unpopular with most Americans.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in December she has long opposed Hyde, but Mr. Biden supported it for decades until he didn’t, announcing during the Democratic presidential primary campaign in June 2019 that he had changed his mind.

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said.

Republicans have not been shy about dredging up Mr. Biden’s past. Mr. Smith cited a letter from then-Sen. Biden to his constituents in which he said the Hyde Amendment would “protect both the woman and her unborn child.”

He said in another letter, ‘I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions … those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.’ So says Joe Biden in the past,” said Mr. Smith on the floor. “I wholeheartedly agree.”

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