Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment—one of the nation’s most important pro-life laws, credited with saving the lives of millions of unborn children.

Shortly after the Supreme Court invented a right to abortion on demand in 1973, leaders in Congress sought to at least prevent American taxpayers from being forced to pay for such life-ending procedures.

The result was the Hyde Amendment. Named after its first sponsor Rep. Henry Hyde, R.-Ill., the longstanding policy prevents federal taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions under Medicaid, except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger. These protections have been attached to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services since 1976.

Additionally, the vast majority of states prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for elective abortions through the state-funded part of Medicaid programs. Only 15 states use taxpayer funding to pay for abortions, but most of those have been forced to do so by court order.

Over 2 Million Lives Have Been Saved

As one of the first—of many—legislative victories for pro-life Americans, the Hyde Amendment has had a very tangible impact on saving the lives of unborn children.

According to recent research by Michael J. New, Ph.D., associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute:

Multiple studies show that when the Hyde Amendment took effect, the birthrate among women on Medicaid increased by an average of about 13 percent. That means in U.S. states that do not fund abortion through Medicaid, one in every nine people born to a mother on Medicaid owes his or her life to the Hyde Amendment.

Since 1976, a total of 2.13 million children nationwide have been saved from abortion because of restrictions to taxpayer funding of abortion under Medicaid.

To put that number in perspective, New points out: “This is roughly equal to the entire population of Houston, the fourth largest city in America. It is also roughly equal to the population of the entire state of New Mexico, and to the combined populations of the states of Rhode Island and Delaware.”

Today, the Hyde Amendment saves roughly 60,000 unborn children from abortion every year (and, in turn, saves their mothers from the serious risks of abortion procedures).

Most Americans Oppose Taxpayer Funding of Abortion

Unlike most policies in Washington, this good and longstanding rider is widely supported by the American people and has won approval on both sides of the aisle for four decades.

According to one survey released in January, 68 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion—including 51 percent of Americans who consider themselves “pro-choice.” Even pro-abortion presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have regularly signed into law bills that include Hyde language.

The Abortion Industry Routinely Fights Against Hyde Protections

Sadly, despite widespread support among Americans for Hyde’s protections, the abortion lobby and liberal politicians are fighting to repeal this commonsense measure.

Planned Parenthood, leader of the abortion industry, which performed 323,999 abortions during its last reporting year alone, receives over half a billion dollars in government funding—much of that in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.

The abortion industry has a clear financial incentive to see the end of Hyde. If Congress fails to attach those protections to government appropriations bills, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers could stand to receive even more taxpayer money since federal Medicaid dollars would then be available to reimburse for abortion procedures.

In almost routine fashion, Planned Parenthood and their pro-abortion allies in Congress doggedly fight attempts to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. In addition to urging Congress to persistently try to pad their bottom line with even more taxpayer funding, they’ve urged Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment and have even nearly derailed anti-human trafficking bills over the issue.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, which once upon a time thought abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” released a platform this summer calling for an end to the Hyde Amendment (in addition to other extremist pro-abortion policies).

Congress Should Codify Hyde’s Protections

One step Congress can take to begin challenging the power of the abortion industry (besides defunding it) is by permanently prohibiting any federal funds from being used to pay for elective abortion or health coverage that includes abortion.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 7, would do just that by codifying the Hyde Amendment language and applying it across federal law. The House passed H.R. 7 last January—a good and long-overdue step to ensuring that the federal government cannot entangle tax dollars with coverage for life-ending procedures. The bill has yet to receive a vote in the Senate.

For now, Americans should celebrate the life-saving work of the Hyde amendment. Indeed, there are more than 2 million reasons to cheer this important pro-life policy.