The Hyde Amendment prevented 2 million abortions advocates say

Pro-life supporters carry a banner during the annual National March for Life on Parliament Hill May 12 in Ottawa, Ontario. (CNS photo/Art Babych)

With the Hyde Amendment that bans federal Medicaid funding of abortions celebrating its 40th anniversary on Sept. 30, the March for Life celebrated the anniversary in part by warning of threats to dismantle the rider.

Even though one new study estimates more than 2 million babies have not been aborted since the Hyde Amendment took effect, Jeanne Mancini, executive director of the March for Life, said it is at risk, as the Democratic Party platform and presidential standard-bearer Hillary Clinton have said the amendment should be repealed.


She spoke at a briefing on Sept. 29 in a hall at the Rayburn House Office Building near the Capitol.

Michael New, a visiting associate professor at Ave Maria University in Florida, said in a research paper that he calculated that 2.14 million unborn babies' lives had been saved as a result of the Hyde Amendment. The paper was published in September by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony Foundation.

During the program, New said no evidence exists that universal health care access, increased contraceptive use or increased welfare payments had any effect on limiting the number of abortions.

With the Hyde Amendment, "we have basically gotten the federal government out of the abortion business," New said, adding that an estimated 60,000 unborn children's lives continue to be saved each year by the Hyde Amendment, which is named for the late Catholic Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois.

New said the bulk of his research came from figures used in reports by the Alan Guttmacher Institute–which until recently was the research arm of Planned Parenthood–because Guttmacher's numbers came from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although "I found a few extra" research studies as well.

Mancini praised Hyde, who grew up in a Democratic household in Chicago and went to Duke University and Georgetown University, playing on the men's basketball team that went to the NCAA tournament championship game in 1943.

Hyde had backed the Human Life Amendment, which would have made abortion illegal nationwide. "He felt he was a failure" because he could not get the constitutional amendment ratified, Mancini said.

He was elected as a Republican from Illinois to a House seat in 1974. In his first term, he authored the Hyde Amendment as a rider to a spending bill. "He didn't want to introduce it," Mancini said. "He thought it should have been someone senior" in the House. But nobody else would, so he did.

Just as the Democrats introduced a new plank in the party platform this year calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, the Republican Party's platform called for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which limits the type of political activity that can be engaged in by federally tax-exempt entities, including churches. Mancini said despite the long-standing bipartisan support for the Hyde Amendment, pro-lifers should work to codify it in law.

New noted that at the time of the Hyde Amendment, there was no clear direction in either major political party on the abortion issue. Then-President Gerald Ford had been "pro-abortion," he said, but backed the Human Life Amendment after pressure from some in the GOP. His 1976 opponent, Jimmy Carter, "won some votes" for saying he was pro-life, New added, "but later he came out" supporting legal abortion.

The program was hosted by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who was not present; Congress went into recess Sept. 28 until after the elections and after it passed a spending authorization bill to avert a shutdown and fund the government through Dec. 9.

Mancini announced the theme of the 2017 March for Life: "The Power of One: The Importance of Preserving the Hyde Amendment," which shows a single stylized lit candle. The annual march will be held Jan. 27 to avoid the crush in Washington surrounding the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration. Mancini said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, will be the keynote speaker at the organization's annual Rose Dinner, to be held the night of the march.

Mancini, in her remarks, said "tens of thousands" come to the annual March for Life each January to protest the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion virtually on demand. She added that there are "millions more who participate year-round."

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