A long-pursued ambition of the nation's right-to-life movement got a step closer to reality on Jan. 24 when House Republicans voted to approve a resolution that seeks to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act,” passed by a bipartisan vote of 238 to 183.
The bill’s author, New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, co-chair of the bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus, speaking in support of the bill from the House floor, said that the Hyde Amendment has saved 2 million lives over 40 years.
“Two million people who would have been aborted instead survived because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise while their mothers benefitted from prenatal health care and support,” Mr. Smith added, according to a statement at his congressional website. “We are experiencing a megatrend in America—consistently reflected in polling data—that the American public not only does not support taxpayer funding for abortion, but the public increasingly supports actions to protect unborn children and women from the violence of abortion.”
On the house floor on Jan. 24, he said, “Defense of the unborn child is the human rights issue of our times, adding that ultrasound technology has “shattered the myth that somehow an unborn child is anything but human and alive.”
The proposed law will end the “annual battle” over Hyde and related measures, Mr. Smith said, and “takes out of Obamacare the facilitation and funding of abortion.”
Democratic critics called the bill misguided, heavy handed and an attack on women’s right to privacy. Many charged that the measure would have the net effect of blocking people from acquiring health coverage of their choice. Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, said, “This bill will affect millions of women who purchase insurance with their own money,” turning back the clock on women’s reproductive rights.
The measure goes before the Senate next. The president’s signature seems assured if the bill survives the Senate. During his campaign, President Donald J. Trump said he supported the idea of making Hyde permanent law and ending the annual debate over the amendment.
The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal monies in securing abortions under most instances, except to save the life of the woman or if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. It has been approved annually since it was first introduced in 1976. In recent years, the amendment has been targeted by pro-choice groups and its repeal was specifically sought for the first time as part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform. Candidate Hillary Clinton called for the end of Hyde during her unsuccessful campaign.
As the annual March for Life approaches on Jan. 27, the House vote was the second abortion-related development out of Washington likely to encourage members of the pro-life community. On Jan. 23, Mr. Trump signed a memorandum reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy, prohibiting U.S. foreign aid money from being distributed to any global health program that provides or counsels abortion.
Criticizing the H.R. 7 vote and the Mexico City reinstatement, Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, charged, “We are seeing 48 hours of reckless disregard for women’s health.”
According to a Marist survey sponsored by the national Knights of Columbus released this week, Americans overwhelmingly oppose the use of tax dollars to support abortion in other countries (83 percent) and more than six in 10 Americans (61 percent) oppose the use of tax dollars to fund abortions in the United States. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents say they want abortion restricted to, at most, the first trimester.
In a statement released on Jan. 23, Knights of Columbus C.E.O. Carl Anderson said, "There is a consensus in America in favor of significant abortion restrictions, and this common ground exists across party lines, and even among significant numbers of those who are pro-choice.
"This poll shows that large percentages of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are united in their opposition to the status quo as it relates to abortion on demand. This is heartening and can help start a new national conversation on abortion."