By Sam Dorman
In a series of unprecedented moves, Democrats removed language barring funding for abortions overseas (Helms Amendment, passed in 1973) and at home (Hyde Amendment, 1976) – both of which polling has shown to be unpopular with majorities of the American public.
A Marist poll, released in conjunction with the anti-abortion Knights of Columbus this year, showed 77% of Americans oppose “using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries.”
House committees, led by Democrats, also voted for appropriations that omitted longstanding bans on funding federal prisoners’ abortions, abortions in D.C. (a.k.a. Dornan Amendment), funding through the Peace Corps (Young), and funding for elective abortion services or coverage administrative expenses under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Smith FEHBP).
The approved spending so far also excludes a requirement that foreign, nongovernmental organizations not perform abortions if they receive federal funding. That’s in addition to the administration deciding to repeal the Mexico City Policy, which blocks taxpayer money from flowing to organizations that promote abortions.
Many of these have been continuously in effect for decades. According to the anti-abortion March for Life, the prisoner prohibition was first enacted in fiscal year 1987 and has been continuously in place since 1996. Beyond outright restrictions on funding, language has also been removed that would prohibit the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) funding recipients from discriminating against health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for or refer for abortion.
The omissions in the House budget represent a dramatic shift from previous years in which Americans could avoid funding some abortions even if they disagreed with the practice.
“The pro-abortion Democratic agenda to eliminate popular, lifesaving protections is a sad and stark change,” said Susan B. Anthony List legislative director Jamie Dangers.
“The Hyde and Hyde-like amendments have been bipartisan policies for decades, both in Congress and the White House, having been enacted by Democratic presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama … The extreme position of Democratic leaders to push for abortion funding is not only wrong, but politically untenable — alienating even their base.”
President Biden, who supported Hyde for decades until recently, previously indicated the measure was a compromise protecting people’s conscience.
“If it’s not government’s business, then you have to accept the whole of that concept, which means you don’t proscribe your right to have an abortion and you don’t take your money to assist someone else to have an abortion,” he told UPI in 1986.
But after switching his position during the presidential race, Biden proposed a budget that excluded language about Hyde.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., portrayed Hyde’s removal as a sign of the Democratic party drifting too far to the left. Without his support, it’s unlikely that the Senate – where Republicans are tied with Democrats and their independent allies – will approve taxpayer funding for abortions. The resulting compromise will likely be a continuing resolution that maintains Trump-era spending.
Regardless, the legislation seemed to signal how Democrats would proceed if they acquired a sizable majority in the chamber.
During a full committee markup, Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Ct., said: “The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered a vast number of disparities and failures in our public health and human services systems that left far too many vulnerable Americans fending for themselves.”
She added: “That is why I am proud that this bill promotes equal treatment for women through increased funding for Title X and by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment. 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.”
Congressional Democrats and other advocates often push Hyde’s removal, arguing that it disproportionately impacts minority and low-income women. But because minority women disproportionately obtain abortions, anti-abortion advocates suggest that current usage of the procedure is racist.
“Your ZIP code, income, or the type of health insurance you have should never determine what kind of essential health care services you can access,” Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a press release last week. “It’s past time for Congress to remove these racist, discriminatory barriers to abortion care from our federal laws,” she continued.
Congressional Democrats are preparing to combine several appropriations packages into a “minibus,” or broader spending package, for next week. The initial package would include appropriations for Agriculture, Energy and Water, Interior, Financial Services, Labor and Health and Human Services, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. The State-Foreign Operations package, which omits language for Helms, could be considered next week as well.
In fighting to restore Hyde, Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Kay Granger, R-Texas, said Democrats’ removal of the amendment was “deeply troubling.”
“Hyde provisions have kept annual federal spending bills from being bogged down in abortion politics for forty years,” she said. “The removal of this provision is deeply troubling to me, both morally as well as what it means for the appropriations process and bipartisanship moving forward.”
Her amendment to restore Hyde received support from committee Republicans and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. By contrast, no Republican voted for the final packages coming out the Appropriations Committee.
She also echoed Susan B. Anthony List in maintaining that Hyde had prevented a large sum of abortions. The anti-abortion group estimated that after 40 years on the books, Hyde had saved more than 2.4 million lives.
The Appropriations Committee Democrats did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro has criticized Hyde in the past, calling it “a discriminatory policy” that led to women being “denied their right to an abortion.”
“The right to choose is a fundamental right that impacts not only a person’s health and wellbeing, but their economic freedom,” said Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Md., in March.
She and more than 100 of her colleagues introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act.
“In practice,” she said, “Helms has banned all U.S. foreign assistance funds from being used for any abortion care. As the largest government funder of global health, including family planning and reproductive health services, the United States should be stepping up and doing everything we can to prevent negative maternal health outcomes.
“But instead, we have archaic language that creates an arbitrary line between abortion and all other health-care services, limiting access to critical care, particularly in the Global South. It is plain wrong for the United States to force a health-care provider in another country to choose between limiting the care they can give to patients and keeping critical funding. Doctors pledge to do no harm.”
The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.