By Kathleen M. Gallagher
For 45 years, the Hyde Amendment has prevented Americans’ federal tax dollars from funding most abortions. Named for former Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde, it’s a rider attached to various appropriations bills and renewed annually.
Now, President Biden has joined some members of Congress in denouncing the policy as discriminatory and calling for it to be scrapped. Some, like Rep. Barbara Lee of California, have called the amendment “anti-choice and blatantly racist.”
How can a policy that has been in place for decades and enjoyed overwhelming congressional support suddenly become biased and harmful?
The simple answer: It’s not.
Look, abortion is legal. It’s a constitutionally protected right. Those of us who believe in the sacredness of human life consider that a tragedy, however, we know it’s the law of the land.
But, since when is Congress required to subsidize the laws of the land? Americans may have the constitutional right to bear arms, but that doesn’t mean taxpayers are required to cover the cost of their gun purchases.
In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment and ruled that a woman’s right to abortion does not carry with it “a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices” (Harris vs. McRae). In fact, the Supreme Court said that government, including the state level, may legitimately “make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and may implement that judgment by the allocation of taxpayer funds.”
The vast majority of states follow the federal government’s lead on this issue and prohibit state taxpayer dollars from funding abortions through Medicaid. (Not New York, of course. New Yorkers are forced to fund abortions with our state and local tax dollars. A repeal of the Hyde Amendment would add in federal tax dollars as well.)
Those who want to rescind the Hyde Amendment suggest it is discriminatory because “health care” is a human right that should not depend on one’s income or ZIP code. They seek to mainstream abortion as just another run-of-the-mill health service.
But that’s not so. In that same Harris v. McRae Court decision, the Supreme Court said: “Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.”
Abortion isn’t the same as getting your gall bladder removed or cataracts fixed. It’s a profound life-altering event that always ends a developing human life and affects many other lives physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
It should be self-evident that when our government subsidizes certain conduct, it encourages the behavior. Government should not be using our tax dollars to encourage abortion.
The Hyde Amendment does not discriminate against the poor or persons of color. And using public monies to destroy the lives of innocent unborn children does not magically liberate their mothers or provide them the education, jobs, and child care they need to help lift them out of poverty.
Low-income, pregnant moms need support, resources, material assistance, and accompaniment to enable them to bear their children and raise their families with dignity. Go to www.notaxpayerabortion.com to sign the petition and learn more about how you can help save the Hyde Amendment.
Kathleen M. Gallagher is the Director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.