Democrats recently took further action to potentially allow future taxpayer funding of abortions.
A subcommittee in the House of Representatives approved spending legislation that did not include the Hyde Amendment or the Weldon amendment, both of which have been bipartisan measures for years.
The Hyde amendment was named for Congressman Henry Hyde and was first passed in 1976. It essentially bans the use of federal funding for abortion services with some exceptions, including abortions that are done when a mother’s life is in danger, or in the case of incest or rape. States are still allowed to use their own Medicaid funds for abortions.
The Weldon amendment was originally passed in 2005 and states that “[n]one of the funds made available in this Act…may be made available to a Federal agency or program, or to a state or local government, if such agency, program, or government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” The measure protects pro-life groups from discrimination.
The debate over the Hyde amendment has escalated in recent years. Republicans have attempted to pass legislation that would enshrine the Hyde amendment into law. At the same time, Democrats have tried pushing their own measures attempting to end the Hyde amendment.
Americans, however, are still divided on the issue of abortion despite some of the messaging from the mainstream media. An AP-NORC poll released in June showed that 61% of Americans felt that abortion should be legal in most or all cases during the first trimester of pregnancy, but that number went down to 34% in the second trimester and 19% in the third trimester.
When it comes to the Hyde amendment, it appears that many Americans support it. A recent Marist poll found that 58% of Americans said they opposed taxpayer funding of abortion. In 2016, a Politico-Harvard poll showed similar feelings among Americans with only 36% of likely voters saying they were in favor of allowing Medicaid funding to be used for abortion services.
Those who support getting rid of the amendment claim that it impacts low-income women in a more negative way than other people. Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said she knows a lot of lawmakers on the other side of the aisle are concerned about it, but, she said, “repealing the Hyde amendment is the best thing we can do to support our mothers and families” and “help prevent, rather than penalize unwanted pregnancies and later, riskier and more costly abortions.”
Republicans have been notably critical of Democrats’ efforts to get rid of the amendment. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “senate Republicans are going to continue standing up for life, standing up for taxpayers, and standing up for the conscience rights of millions — millions — of Americans who don’t want the government laundering their hard-earned money to abortion providers.”
Representative Ashley Hinson (R-IA) is among those pushing back against Democratic efforts. Last week, she said, “I rise today in support of the women who need encouragement to choose life not coercion to end it. I rise today in support of the American taxpayer who does not want to pay for elective abortions with their hard-earned money.”
Some have also pointed out that President Joe Biden used to be in favor of the Hyde amendment, but he shifted his position in 2019 during his presidential campaign. His campaign had previously said that he supported it, but after he was heavily criticized, he changed his view, pointing to Republican state legislatures passing pro-life legislation as a reason.
At the time, he said that he believed health care is a right and could “no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.” He added that he made “no apologies for the last position.”