The Democrats’ Appalling Vote to Kill the Hyde Amendment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes questions at her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

House Democrats voted this week to kill longstanding measures that prevent federal funding of elective abortions, and they did so with an appalling unanimity.

From 1976 to 2020, regardless of partisan control of Congress, every appropriations bill funding Medicaid included the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortions for enrollees except in rare circumstances. From 1973 to 2020, the Helms amendment — a similar prohibition on direct taxpayer funding of abortions in international-aid programs — was attached to every appropriations bill funding the State Department.

But this week, not a single House Democrat voted against either appropriations bill on the grounds that the legislation would force American taxpayers to fund the deliberate destruction of innocent human lives at home and abroad.

The House Democrats’ unanimous support for taxpayer funding of abortion is atrocious. As common sense and multiple studies tell us, government subsidies for abortion result in more abortions. A report published in 2020 by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a nonprofit affiliated with the Susan B. Anthony List, estimated that the Hyde amendment had spared the lives of more than 2,400,000 human beings since 1976. Studies by the Guttmacher Institute, a Planned Parenthood offshoot, have also found that Medicaid funding of abortion causes Medicaid recipients to procure abortions at a much higher rate.

The good news is that appropriations bills are still subject to a filibuster in the Senate. That means Senate Republicans certainly will, as they must, block passage of any appropriations bill lacking the Hyde amendment, the Helms amendment, and other traditional, to this point largely uncontroversial, pro-life measures. Strong majorities of American voters still oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.

The terrible news is that the action in the House this week proves that Democrats are deadly serious about enacting a policy of unlimited taxpayer funding of abortion, and they are dangerously close to having the votes to make that policy the law of the land.

Democrats could enact their radical plans to fund abortion on demand in one of two ways.

If they hold the House and pick up two or three seats in the Senate in 2022, Democrats could have the votes to kill the filibuster, and the Senate minority would lose power to block any legislation.

The other avenue by which congressional Democrats may fund abortion is a budget-reconciliation bill — legislation that can pass the Senate by a simple majority but is subject to complex rules. Some Senate Democrats are trying to create a new “Medicaid-like” program that would fund elective abortions in the upcoming $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. The program would serve lower-income populations, at first, in the twelve states that rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

It could ultimately fall to Senator Joe Manchin, the self-described pro-life Democrat from West Virginia, to stop Democratic plans to expand taxpayer funding of abortion in the next reconciliation bill. Manchin went along with the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion “COVID relief” reconciliation bill in March of this year, despite the fact that the bill did not apply the Hyde amendment to various slush funds that could be used to fund abortion. But Manchin said in June: “I’m going to support Hyde in every way possible.”

If Manchin meant what he said, he needs to tell his Democratic colleagues that he will vote against the passage of any reconciliation bill that forces American taxpayers to fund abortion on demand.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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