Time to Drop The Hyde Amendment

No. This is not a post advocating a pro-choice position on abortion. Nor is it a post advocating a pro-life position. This is simply a post asking for consistency.

In 1973, Roe v Wade made abortion legal in the United States. In 1976 an amendment, or rider, to an appropriations bill, called the Hyde Amendment prohibited federal funding of abortions, specifically via Medicaid. This rider has been applied to bills ever since.

The logic behind the amendment is that pro-life tax payers should not be forced to pay for abortions. To this I say nonsense. There are a great number of things my tax dollars fund to which I might object (the war in Afghanistan comes to mind) but I don’t get to decide what my taxes pay for. Or to put it differently, if I don’t want my taxes to pay for something because I consider that something to be unethical or immoral, then I get to lobby my legislators to outlaw that “something” to which I object. Abortion is legal. Why should we treat it from a funding perspective as if it were illegal?

Why do I bring this up now? We just came dangerously close to a government shut down Friday night. Everyone agreed on the budget numbers but the sole stumbling block was a Republican attempt to drop Title X funding, specifically funding of Planned Parenthood. Advocates of Planned Parenthood say the organization provides valuable pre and post-natal care to mothers and babies as well as birth control options to women who wish not to have children. Advocates (including the organization itself) claim that only a small part of Planned Parenthood’s mission involves providing abortions. Opponents of Planned Parenthood call it an abortion mill.

The only reason why we should care who is right about Planned Parenthood’s mission is whether or not they use government funding for abortions, in violation of the Hyde Amendment. Again, advocates of Planned Parenthood say that funding of abortions is carefully cordoned off from federal money. Planned Parenthood opponents say that funds are fungible and that in truth any federal money given to Planned Parenthood ipso facto supports abortion.

I say abortion is legal and the Hyde Amendment is a back door workaround to give abortion a less than fully legal status. Had there been no Hyde Amendment, there would have been no last-minute controversy over the 2011 budget. There would have been no opportunity to hold budget negotiations hostage to an ideological battle. As it turns out, the ideological battle was lost but at the cost of much wasted legislative time.

To the chorus of pro-life readers now calling me “baby killer” I say one thing very simply. Stop fussing about what we fund and don’t fund and spend that energy changing the law! If abortion is immoral and unethical and tantamount to murder, then put all your effort toward overturning Roe v Wade. Let’s be honest. You don’t really care how abortions are funded. You want them to stop. So quit playing petty financial games that give you some misplaced sense of moral superiority and do the hard work of outlawing abortions.

While I know that a pro-life, pro-choice argument will ensue from this post, I repeat what I stated at the outset. You can be pro-life or you can be pro-choice, you just can’t have your cake and eat it too. The Hyde Amendment is a fine example of government hypocrisy and the time for its demise is overdue.


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