Social justice includes being pro-life: Why Tim Kaine should defend the Hyde Amendment

Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., takes the stage during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., takes the stage during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Editors' note: A version of this editorial first appeared online on July 28. 

At its national convention in July, the Democratic Party, under Hillary Clinton’s leadership, adopted a platform that opposes a compromise that has held for almost four decades. Since 1977, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, has been routinely adopted into federal spending bills every year. As with any real compromise, no one on either side of the issue finds it fully satisfactory. Pro-choice activists decry it for restricting the choices of poor women who rely on Medicaid, while pro-lifers know that it does only the bare minimum to shield taxpayers from deeper entanglement in the moral tragedy of abortion. But the compromise has held—perhaps the only small patch of common ground in the American politics of abortion.

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Mrs. Clinton, who has embraced and celebrated Planned Parenthood throughout her campaign, has been quickly withdrawing from this common ground. She has excised “rare” from the “safe, legal and rare” formulation her husband coined and she used as recently as 2008 to describe her position on abortion. Indeed, the practical effect of repealing the Hyde Amendment would be to make abortion significantly less rare than it is now. In 2012, Richard Doerflinger argued in the pages of America that, by conservative estimates, the Hyde Amendment reduces the incidence of abortion among recipients of Medicaid by 20 percent to 35 percent.

Defense of the Hyde Amendment is not intended to establish different legal rights for women on Medicaid and wealthier women. Nor is it solely about isolating tax dollars from the moral contagion of abortion. It reflects a recognition that funding something tends to make it more common, not more rare. What is at stake is a significant increase in the already distressingly high number of abortions in the United States. No one except the most extreme abortion advocates can suggest that would be a good outcome.

The only nuance Mrs. Clinton has shown on abortion in this campaign may be in her selection of Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate. Even though he has earned a 100 percent rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America in his Senate career, pro-choice activists were skeptical because he had, in previous campaigns, described himself as “personally opposed” to abortion because of the values of his Catholic faith but committed to protecting its legality.

To be sure, being merely “personally opposed” to the injustice of abortion is as incoherent as being “personally opposed” to poverty or racism while protecting them in law. As he accepted the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Kaine spoke—to great cheers—about coming alive to the mission of social justice and concern for the marginalized as a result of his Jesuit education. The editors of this journal were among many Catholics heartened by these remarks, and we applaud his work for the poor and forgotten. But as long as Mr. Kaine does not recognize the unborn among the marginalized and to include them among the children for whom he promises to fight, he has not yet fully embraced the mission of social justice. As long as he continues to accept the moral myopia that pretends abortion can fix our society’s failure to offer women the support necessary to feel secure even in unplanned or difficult pregnancies, he has not yet fully responded to the Gospel’s call to care for those in need.

RELATED: VP Pick Sen. Tim Kaine Seeks to Balance Catholic Faith with Democratic Politics

But incoherent as it is, being “personally opposed” at least maintains some minimal contact with the difficult moral reality of abortion. The Democratic platform’s call for the elimination of the Hyde Amendment forecloses the moral debate and abandons any attempt to find common ground. It tells pro-life Democrats that while the party may not yet be drumming them out, their days are probably numbered. It tells pro-lifers outside the party that those who advocate for an absolutist position on abortion also have an absolute grip on Democratic policy proposals.

In his first week in the campaign, Mr. Kaine has not clarified his own position on the Hyde Amendment. In his convention speech last night, he included a line in support of Roe v. Wade, but did not mention the party’s support of expanded public funding for abortion. As recently as July 6, he responded to a question posed by The Weekly Standard about the platform change by saying that he would “check it out,” but he confirmed that he had “traditionally been a supporter” of the Hyde Amendment. After some initial confusion, the Clinton campaign now says that Mr. Kaine will support its repeal.

American voters deserve to hear Mr. Kaine explain his stand on the Hyde Amendment in his own words. By abandoning it, he is not only supporting a significant increase in the number of abortions but also signaling to pro-life Democrats that the party does not have room even for “personal opposition” to abortion. Beyond the direct injustice to the unborn, his shift also undermines even the limited common ground on abortion and leaves our politics worse off by far.

Editors' note: The morning after this editorial was published online, Mr. Kaine clarified his position on the Hyde Amendment, reaffirming his support. The editorial that appears in the August 15-22 issue includes these two final paragraphs in place of the preceding two. 

As he was named to the ticket, Mr. Kaine’s current position on the Hyde Amendment was unclear. He had supported it as recently as early July, but the campaign had also indicated that he would support the full party platform. On July 29, two days after his convention speech and one day after a version of this editorial posted online called for him to clarify his position on the Hyde Amendment, Mr. Kaine told CNN that he still supported it. His willingness to make a small break with the platform’s abortion absolutism gives prolife Democrats a measure of hope that their party is not done with them yet.

Despite the wishes of some who call not only for acceptance of abortion but for its moral approbation, Americans are not done wrestling with abortion. The moral question is still alive. The Hyde Amendment maintains contact with that question—and it also helps reduce the overall number of abortions. It should be vigorously defended.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bill Mazzella
1 year 9 months ago
There you go again getting into the one issue camp which is fraught with non-sequiturs and irrational social justice. By banning legal abortions you favor the rich who can travel to countries or pay off doctors to do it sub rosa. While the poor will have to resort to butchers and back alley shenanigans who feed off the needs of the poor. Kaine will probably educate you the way Mario Cuomo helped the one issue segment of the church. Looks like this is your signal to your right wing critics that you are with them on this one. Not insignificant is the author of the amendment Henry Hyde who was a supreme hypocrite in his own infamy. While he went after Bill Clinton for his sexual trysts with Monica, the married, family man Hyde had a twenty year affair with a married woman for whom he kept a Washington apartment for his convenience. When the husband of the woman Hyde was committing adultery with told Hyde's wife about it she replied: "My husband is a great man. Your wife is a whore." So let's give another Catholic award to Henry Hyde because sleeping around is fine as long as you make sure the paramour brings the child to term. When Henry Hyde was confronted with his twenty year infidelity (imagine what we do not know) he explained that it was a “youthful indiscretion.” He sounds like another charlatan we are afflicted with today. Of course, America magazine has lost its balance on this matter as it supported the clandestine, illegal video taping of Planned Parenthood personnel who have done more to prevent abortion than the Catholic leadership since they educated women and men about contraception. With this editorial in their hip pocket they may be more welcome in right wing Catholic circles Given the history of the Church's preoccupation with sex, perhaps America Magazine cannot help itself. But it is the wrong message in a world filled with anti-abortion hypocrites alla Henry Hyde. Already the strident wing of the church is using this issue as an excuse to vote for Trump. We have seen this devil before.
William Rydberg
1 year 9 months ago
Lot of misplaced something here in my opinion that saddens me. If you knew the gift of God... For Catholic relations are not simply good but Holy...
Josh Jones
1 year 9 months ago
The argument that being pro-life favors the rich is completely futile, because if one believes abortion is murder, then the argument that it's only fair to publicly enable the poor to commit the same murder the rich can afford to do overseas is completely nonsensical. Naturally, if you don't believe abortion is murder, then it makes sense. But if you're trying to argue against a pro-lifer, especially a well catechized Catholic pro-lifer, then your specific argument is not only completely ineffective, but also rather alarming in how you don't understand that it's so ineffective. Could you even stomach the suggestion that underage prostitution should be legal, and publicly subsidized for the poor, simply because the rich can already fly to other countries to engage in it? That's pretty much the same argument you're trying to use against Catholic pro-lifers on the abortion issue. The larger issue of support of children, women, and families in difficult financial situations also falls flat when using it to argue for abortion, largely because the outreach to these marginalized people from the Catholic Church greatly exceeds anything any other institution is doing. The pro-life movement is often criticized for only caring about unborn babies but turning its back as soon as the baby is born. First, that's completely inaccurate, which we can get into later if you wish. But more importantly, the argument can very accurately be turned around on the Left: the reason pro-choicers push so hard for abortion is because they *don't want* to care for the baby if it's born. The Left's promise of financial independence is apathy wrapped in feigned compassion. Add to that the undeniable importance of family on virtually every facet of our society (including economic stability and access to education) combined with the overwhelming evidence of the stark eradication of family life after the public gained access to both contraception and abortion, and you reach the same conclusion the RCC has always proclaimed. And while we're attacking historical figures in the abortion debate, don't forget Roe has long since come forward saying her whole lawsuit was a lie to begin with, and that Sanger championed both abortion and contraception specifically to marginalize black communities. And if you look at the statistics around black communities and abortion now, you'll be doing some pretty intense intellectual gymnastics trying to convince anybody abortion "works" when it comes to protecting financial freedom of poor people. But like I said, if you define financial freedom not as the woman pulling herself out of poverty, but as the rest of the country not having to deal with more of her children, then sure you have your success. But then you'd have to quit accusing the RCC and pro-lifers as being the hypocritical or self-serving ones. As even the staunch pro-choice Camille Paglia says, the one thing the pro-abortion argument cannot stand on is a moral argument.
Tom Fields
1 year 9 months ago
""Hyde" merely says----do not use my money (taxes)--to support an activity which my Faith says is inherently evil---if you want abortion for all----contribute to Planed Parenthood!
Luis Gutierrez
1 year 9 months ago
This brings to mind this comment by Senator Kaine when Pope Francis came to the USA in 2015: "If women are not accorded equal place in the leadership of the Catholic Church and the other great world religions, they will always be treated as inferiors in earthly matters as well," Kaine said in a statement. "There is nothing this Pope could do that would improve the world as much as putting the Church on a path to ordain women." http://www.kaine.senate.gov/tim-in-the-news/let-women-be-priests-sen-kaine-tells-the-pope As long as the Catholic Church persists in *aborting* female vocations to the ministerial priesthood, the pro-life ideal of the Christian gospel is compromised. It is time to cease trying to impose our morality on others and start preaching by example.
Joan Clancy
1 year 9 months ago
"When will the Catholic Church stop trying to criminalize sin?" ~David Foster Wallace
Tom Fields
1 year 9 months ago
when criminals stop sinning.
Crystal Watson
1 year 9 months ago
Tim Kaine does support repealing the Hyde Amendment ... http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/tim-kaine-now-backs-lifting-hyde-amendment-banning-abortion-funding-n618246 I think it should be repealed - it unfairly discriminates against the poor, the very people who need government assistance the most. According to the article above ... "More than 1 in 10 American women are insured under Medicaid. According to a study of women across the country by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, women without insurance or Medicaid coverage typically paid $575 out of pocket for their abortions. For more than half of those women, those costs equaled a third or more of their monthly incomes."
Paul Louisell
1 year 9 months ago
The Catholic Church is consistent in its recognition of the sacredness of human life and the protection of human life at all stages and in every form - in the womb; disabled; convicted of capital crime; suicide prevention; aging and infirm. To promote abortion is to discriminate against the unborn. To promote abortion is to promote the dismemberment of human fetuses. Surely our society can find a better solution than to terminate a human life in the womb.
Crystal Watson
1 year 9 months ago
No one is promoting abortion. What they are promoting is that the government's health program for the poor cover the full range of legal reproductive options that are available to everyone else. The ability to control when you have children or whether you have children or not is one of the greatest factors relating to poverty. This amendment makes sure that poor women have a greater chance of remaining poor.
Robert Klahn
1 year 9 months ago
The church is consistent... way too many Catholics are not. Anti-Abortion is not Pro-Life.
Tom Fields
1 year 9 months ago
What twisted logic. Do they know what causes pregnancy? Do their partners know about condoms? Should I be paying for her mistakes? I thought the money Planned Parenthood took from my taxes took care of everything?
Linda Rooney
1 year 9 months ago
OMG, Joan....I wrote a long response and then I saw yours. Thank you. If the Church works so hard to criminalize abortion, one wonders why it works so little to do the same to sins against justice, against the dignity, against racism, against sexism, against all other sins that oppress or demean living life with dignity and in the aura of sacredness.
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 9 months ago
Hear! Hear!
Alan Miceli
1 year 9 months ago
So, the fair thing to do, is to have the federal government pay for the killing of poor unborn children? I'm betting that the men and women -- yes, women -- who are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment, would take issue with that. The Democratic Party says it favors a woman's right to choose, but it never finishes the sentence. It never says what's being chosen. Science clearly tells us that a human life is inside the uterus during pregnancy. The Democratic Party likes to use science, to wag its finger at Republicans over global warming, but it sticks that finger in its in pocket when it comes to abortion. I'm extremely disappointed in Tim Kaine. And as a pro-life Democrat I'm broken-hearted over my party that will only help you out after you're born. Before your born, it's the hunger games.
Robert Klahn
1 year 9 months ago
Pro-life or anti-abortion?
Robert Klahn
1 year 9 months ago
The Hyde amendment is half of what is needed. All the Hyde amendment does is prevent federal funding of abortion. It does NOT protect life, because it allows children, born and unborn, to die due to lack of medical care, lack of nutrition, lack of so much that is needed for a healthy life. Until the nation provides full protection for life the claim of pro-life belongs only to those who are fighting to change the anti-life laws and culture that says, once the child is born it is no longer our responsibility. Catholic Social Teaching provides for a full pro-life policy. That is what we need to promote.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 9 months ago
There is no such thing as a pro-life Democratic Party position. It was exhumed from the party in 1992 when they refused to let Gov. Bob Casey Sr. speak at the DNC, solely because he wanted to give a pro-life speech. See here for the history (http://www.themediareport.com/2008/11/01/the-truth-about-gov-bob-casey-and-the-1992-dnc-convention/): "Less than three weeks before the convention, Gov. Casey had been a defendant in the monumental Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania vs. Casey. Casey was sued by Planned Parenthood after signing a law which required a 24-hour waiting period and parental consent (for minors) for abortions. The law also banned abortions for the purpose of gender selection" The DNC has degenerated further and further since then, as pro-lifers have slowly departed (from party or this life) and left the pro-aborts to themselves. No Democratic politician can aspire to the higher offices unless they get on the abortion train. Planned Parenthood did indeed sell body parts, no matter how the media spin it. At least they have stopped doing it since the scandal broke out. Re the statement above: "But incoherent as it is, being “personally opposed” at least maintains some minimal contact with the difficult moral reality of abortion." - I think the "personally opposed" excuse is so hypocritical. it is worse than the frank pro-abortion stance of Crystal, Bill and Robert below, - who are at least honest in keeping abortions going. The goal of the "personally opposed" argument, ever since Cuomo made it at Notre Dame, is to fool pro-lifers into thinking one can be a pro-lifer and Democratic, or principally against and practically for abortion. Another hypocritical position is to say one can't be pro-life if one doesn't agree to more government spending. The implication is - the unborn child doesn't deserve birth if the government won't pay a ransom to the mother. try this out with the slavery argument. A slave doesn't deserve freedom if there is no government money to support them when they are free? The Democratic party's practical position is: every abortion chosen by a mother is a good one, no matter what age of the unborn, or what reason (contraception, eugenics, gender selection). The key for them is absolute choice, not what is chosen.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 9 months ago
"To be sure, being merely 'personally opposed' to the injustice of abortion is as incoherent as being 'personally opposed' to poverty or racism while protecting them in law." I would like to congratulate the editors of America for such a clearly worded piece. I was able to feel your pain on this most disheartening subject. Senator Kaine is a non-issue. I could not care less for his beliefs and opinion on abortion, as he considers them irrelevant to his practice as a politician and representative of the people. He has decided to ditch whatever was left of his principles, and go along with the corrupt politician of the day that offers him power in exchange for his support of her culture of death. Because of that, he has received far more attention that he deserves. On the other hand, a story that has not been covered at all by America Magazine is the rigged Democrat primary contest, exposed by Wikileaks. Not a single article on the subject has been written. That is inexcusable, especially considering that it was the biggest news during the Democrat convention, even covered by the corporate "mainstream" media. Carrying the water for Hillary Clinton and her party does not help truth nor justice.
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 9 months ago
The abortion rate declined 7% during Obama’s first term surpassing the 6% total decline of the Reagan and Bush 41 presidencies. Obama also surpassed the 5% drop of Bush 43. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_statistics_in_the_United_States
Tom Fields
1 year 9 months ago
The decline had NOTHING to do with Obama---Pro Life movement is having some success--inspite of Ob----who would not want his daughters to "have the "inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy"----may God forgive this fool!
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 9 months ago
Pro Lifers perhaps should be encouraged by the 30% abortion rate decline under presidents Clinton and Obama vs. 11% under Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush43.
Bill Mazzella
1 year 9 months ago
The reason I call out the hypocrisy of the "One Issue" phenomenon in the US is that shows most clearly how we have departed from the call of Jesus to a Church fostering material prosperity with an aside to the poor and downtrodden. In other words we prosperous ones are the favored of God and we show our faith by helping those poor devils who are poor. God will reward them for having so many children even if they cannot afford to take care of them. Because we have the prisons to house them when they grow so that other Middle Class Catholics will have jobs to control them. In India Middle Class Catholics do not associate with the downtrodden. Yet those downtrodden equal the entire Christian population of Canada 25 to 30 Million of them. So what. Priests in India come here so their bishops can get money for them while the poor Indian Catholics are not taken care of. Middle Class Catholics here and in India are an insult to the Gospel. But hold on we can redeem ourselves by making sure women do not have abortions. The most important issue. That misguided bishop of Philadelphia, Charlie Chaput calls it the "defining issue of our time...the most important moral issue. " The absurdity of Chaput and company's position is that under Obama's watch we had less abortions than under the presidents Chaput and Law urged us to vote for. So Chaput and company have created Donald Trump. As he has evolved to embrace their position with even worse lies than they have fostered upon us. https://cruxnow.com/church/2015/07/29/if-francis-wants-a-church-of-the-poor-hell-find-it-in-india/ However deprived it may be, Rawte’s situation is far more representative of the vast majority of Christians in India than the impressive structures one can find in a handful of urban enclaves such as the Bandra neighborhood in Mumbai, where affluent Catholics form virtually a self-enclosed religious colony. (To this day, there are housing developments in Bandra where a baptismal certificate is required to buy a home.)
THE CHRISTOFFERSONS
1 year 9 months ago
You describe the Hyde Amendment as a compromise. But should this compromise foreclose discussion of how best to deal with the neuralgic issue presented by abortion? I don't think the issue is abortion itself. The vast majority -- on both sides of this controversy -- lament when a woman chooses to end the life that is within her. Such possibility for life! And such a poor choice. "The altar weeps", as was said about the practice of divorce, which was tolerated under Jewish law (Deut. 24:1). For me, the problem is the law. The Hyde Amendment has been around for decades. No progress has been made. Perhaps we would be better off reconsidering other alternatives that might better support the natural feeling which a woman has for her unborn child. Perhaps this is an opportunity for dialogue, with some better semblance of accompaniment and encounter than our society has been able to muster on this issue. It would be good to see the bishops supporting such dialogue. Paragraphs 68-74 of Evangelium Vitae need not be read to the contrary. The law is a poor tool for what needs to be addressed. I say that as a lawyer. I love the law. And I hate to see the law that I love abused in service to ends for which it is not suited.
Michael Seredick
1 year 9 months ago
I do not support abortion, but I do believe in separation of church and state issues. Sad, but true, eliminate Roe/Wade and you do not eliminate abortion. In "not comparable" comparison, we tried outlawing booze decades ago and people drank anyway. This is a non-resolvable human problem. Suppose the Catholic Church is instrumental in outlawing abortion. What next? Abortion is murder - yes I agree. Do you imprison the mother Her physician? Father and mother?. Only the father. How much new expense for prison? Funding comes from where? State or Federal? Tell me your solution please.
Tom Fields
1 year 9 months ago
when the State takes my money to support what my Church forbids---separation no longer exists! Check with Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters!
Tom Fields
1 year 9 months ago
Those who claim to be Catholic--Biden, Pelosi, Kaine-----Ted Kennedy--in the past---but accept abortion---are phonies---Even worse---American Bishops---gave us Obama when they tortured logic saying that you could vote for pro-aborts---if you voted for "other" reasons??? Good thing Lincoln didn't think this way about slavery. Now you have government forcing the little Sisters to support abortion. Keep Hyde! I do not want my money to support partial birth organ harvesting--Hilary's favorite----May God forgive us!

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