Passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) touched a lot of hot buttons among advocates and the opposition. One of the final thorny issues right up to the weekend that the bill passed was whether or not the bill properly honored the Hyde Amendment. It took a Presidential signing statement to appease Representative Bart Stupak and convince him to vote for the bill. The entire affair highlighted for me two levels of hypocrisy within our country where abortion is concerned.
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Let’s start at the legislative level. Roe v. Wade in 1973 established that first trimester abortions were legal in the United States without restriction. Yet in 1976 an appropriations bill rider sponsored by Representative Henry Hyde restricted federal funding of abortion (primarily via Medicaid) without restriction. The wording of the amendment was subsequently changed to allow federal funding in the case of rape, incest or risk of mother’s life. This is where the first layer of hypocrisy arises. If Roe v. Wade does not make distinctions for first trimester abortions, why should the Hyde Amendment? One answer of course is that without the Hyde Amendment, the tax dollars of pro-life people would be going toward abortions. However I say, so what? We do not, on an individual basis decide how our tax dollars are used. I personally might like less of my tax money used for the military but ultimately I have no choice in the matter. From what I can see, the Hyde Amendment makes a value judgment that directly contradicts Roe v. Wade. Either first trimester abortions are legal or they are not. If they are legal, there should be no judgment restricting the funding of them.
But the typical wording of the Hyde Amendment, “except in cases of rape or incest”, raises a deeper level of hypocrisy of which many if not most pro-life advocates are guilty. If we agree that life begins at conception, then from my perspective the only viable reason to terminate a pregnancy is to save the life of the mother. The life inside the mother did not choose to be conceived under the circumstances of rape or incest. To terminate that life is to hold against that life a circumstance for which it was not responsible. The counter argument is that the mother and potentially the child may suffer irreparable psychological harm if the pregnancy is carried to term. Is this potential worth terminating a life? I would say not.
I maintain that the rape and incest exceptions are deeply rooted in America’s sexual hangups. Now I am hardly advocating rape and incest as normal sexual choices but I suspect that other countries in which sex is not viewed as shameful, have a much more mature and reasoned approach to these issues. Both should be viewed as unfortunate events but not life ending events. There can be healing. There are of course genetic health issues related to incest but even that is not a compelling reason for abortion in my judgment. As a disabled person I am particularly sensitive to the notion that some babies are worth being born and some are not.
Frankly, I think our country wants to have its cake and eat it too. Either the Hyde Amendment should be dropped or Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
Postscript: Despite all my reservations about abortion there is primarily one reason why I end up on the pro-choice side of the argument. I cannot abide the notion that a legislative body that is a good 70% male will dictate a biological outcome for a situation that is uniquely female. No man has ever faced nor will ever face the choice of terminating a pregnancy. Perhaps when NOW (National Organization for Women) and the League of Women Voters comes down on the pro-life side of the argument, then so will I.