How Democrats Came to Embrace Taxpayer-Funded Abortions
Fred Lucas /
President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 applying the Hyde Amendment, which bans taxpayer funding of most abortions, to Obamacare.
Five years later, the White House referred to the Hyde Amendment while defending taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.
Now, the Democrats’ party platform is calling for repeal of the measure.
According to a new poll, Americans are solidly opposed to public funding of abortion, including nearly half of voters who support abortion rights, and at least four out of 10 Democrats.
The Hyde Amendment, in effect since 1976 and named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., prohibits the use of federal money for abortion, except in cases when the mother’s life is at stake, or in cases of rape or incest. The appropriations rule generally has been a consistent rider to funding bills with bipartisan support, including lawmakers who support abortion.
But now Democrats are shifting their stance. The party’s 2016 platform states:
We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.
That’s in the face of 62 percent of Americans who say they oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, according to a poll of 1,009 adults by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, released Monday.
Further breakdown shows 45 percent of pro-choice Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion; 65 percent of African-Americans oppose it and so do 61 percent of Latinos. Fully 44 percent of Democrats oppose federal funding of abortion, the poll found.
“Without President Obama’s executive order expanding the Hyde language, we would not have been able to get the ACA [Affordable Care Act] passed in 2010,” Kristen Day, executive director for Democrats for Life of America, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.
Day, who is attending the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia, added: “Most Americans don’t want public funding of abortion at home or abroad.”
“Most Americans don’t want public funding of abortion at home or abroad,” @ProLifeDem says.
One-third of Democrats, or about 23 million, are pro-life, according to Democrats for Life. But Day is worried such a hardline platform will alienate too many voters.
Obama’s executive order, which reassured moderate Democrats to vote for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, states:
Following the recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act … , it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. … The [Affordable Care] Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges.
During the debate over Obamacare, Obama said: “There are no plans under health reform to revoke the existing prohibition on using federal taxpayer dollars for abortions. Nobody is talking about changing that existing provision, the Hyde Amendment. Let’s be clear about that. It’s just not true.”
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, told The Daily Signal that Obama chose to “hide behind the Hyde Amendment” with Obamacare, using a “phony executive order” that wasn’t fully enforced.
“The Hyde Amendment is the most successful abortion reduction program,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “Conservatively, there are 1 million Americans walking around today because of the Hyde Amendment, possibly 2 million.”
Last year, after hidden-camera videos seemed to show officials at Planned Parenthood clinics talking about selling the body parts of aborted babies, the Obama administration stepped up to defend the nation’s largest abortion provider.
In defending federal funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, White House press secretary Josh Earnest stressed that current law prevents tax dollars from funding abortions. At an October press briefing, Earnest said:
The president would strongly oppose and would even veto a piece of legislation that would result in the wholesale defunding of Planned Parenthood and it warrants mentioning at this point, that there is a provision of federal law that prevents federal funds from being used to perform abortions. That is a law that’s been on the books for quite some time. And it’s a law that’s been enforced by the Obama administration. And it’s why this rhetoric emanating from Republicans about wanting to defund Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood carries out abortions is fundamentally dishonest.
Several Democrat lawmakers expressed opposition to calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment in the party platform.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., wrote a letter to the platform committee saying, “This is a consensus-based policy that has, for many years, prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for abortion.”
In addition to calling for federal funding, the Democrats’ 2016 platform has an abortion-related litmus test for judicial nominees, stating: “We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, and will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion … ”
The party’s platform has moved significantly toward the pro-choice position since candidate Bill Clinton called for abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare” in his acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
In 1996, 2000, and 2004, the term “rare” was part of the platform in describing abortion.
While the Marist poll finds 51 percent identify themselves as pro-choice, it also finds that 78 percent support some restrictions on abortion.
“The American people have spoken clearly on their desire for abortion restrictions, less taxpayer funding of it, and commonsense regulations on this industry to protect women’s health,” said Carl Anderson, chief executive officer of Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization that sponsored the poll. “Our courts, politicians, candidates, and parties should heed this consensus.”
The Hyde Amendment has been long-standing consensus, said Mallory Quigley, communications director for the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group. She added: “The Republican platform is more pro-life than it has ever been.”
The Republican Party platform says:
We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide health care. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. … We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. …
Here’s a look at abortion language in Democratic Party platforms adopted from the time Bill Clinton was nominated for president until now, when his wife Hillary Clinton is about to be nominated.
Democrats stand behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, regardless of ability to pay, and support a national law to protect that right. It is a fundamental constitutional liberty that individual Americans—not government—can best take responsibility for making the most difficult and intensely personal decisions regarding reproduction. The goal of our nation must be to make abortion less necessary, not more difficult or more dangerous.
Our goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare, not more difficult and more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing. For four years in a row, we have increased support for family planning. The abortion rate is dropping. Now we must continue to support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, and we call on all Americans to take personal responsibility to meet this important goal.
The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay. … Our goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare, not more difficult and more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing. The abortion rate is dropping. Now we must continue to support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, and we call on all Americans to take personal responsibility to meet this important goal.
Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.
Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.
We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, and will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. … We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.