Several 2020 Democrats are renewing their calls for taxpayer-funded abortion. But, in the process, they’re overestimating voters’ support – and underestimating the two million lives saved by the Hyde Amendment.
September 30 marked the 42nd anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. The legislative provision, which is approved annually by Congress, bars federal dollars from directly funding abortion. There are a few exceptions: cases of rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother. But that wasn’t enough for the Democratic presidential candidates who took to Twitter to condemn the provision.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted that it was “time for Hyde to go.”
“I've lived in an America where abortions were illegal,” she warned. “Women still got abortions—but they were dangerous and too often deadly.”
The provision was first passed in 1976, three years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.
Warren worried that the provision “harms the most vulnerable women by limiting their ability to safely access abortion.”
For her part, Senator Kamala Harris of California remembered “the anniversary of a dark day in our nation’s history.”
“Access to reproductive health care should not be based on how much money people have,” she typed. “We must repeal the Hyde Amendment.”
Like Harris, many of the other candidates accused the Hyde Amendment of targeting Americans with lower incomes. To them, the provision wasn’t about protecting Americans’ consciences.
On social media, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont shared a NARAL Pro-Choice America tweet calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
“If we believe in the constitutional right to abortion, we must ensure all women have that right regardless of income,” Sanders argued. “Medicare for All will cover all reproductive health services, including abortion, and eliminate the Hyde Amendment.”
From New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker tweeted a video of himself attacking the provision at an event.
“43 years ago, the House passed the Hyde Amendment for the first time, denying federal Medicaid coverage of abortion to millions—many of them low-income and people of color,” he wrote. “As president, I will fight to end the assault on reproductive health.”
Julián Castro also chimed in with a personal note.
“The first woman to die because of the Hyde Amendment was named Rosie, just like my mom,” he wrote of a woman who died after obtaining an unsafe illegal abortion. “The Hyde Amendment has hurt too many.”
Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio also recognized the anniversary, declaring, “it’s time to be BOLD and lift abortion coverage bans once and for all.”
But Democrats may be miscalculating how many Americans support funding abortion – or forcing others to fund it. In June, Slate published a piece with the headline “Abortion Funding Isn’t As Popular As Democrats Think.”
“[I]t’s not true that opposition to the Hyde Amendment has become broadly popular or a consensus position among Democrats,” staff writer William Saletan wrote, before citing polls from Politico/Morning Consult, PRRI, Marist, Politico/Harvard, and YouGov.
“In every poll, a plurality of Americans opposes public funding of abortions,” he stressed, and “In every poll but one, that plurality is a majority.”
Voicing the pro-life movement on Twitter, Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action, applauded the Hyde Amendment on its anniversary. She also pointed out that the provision is “supported by the majority of Americans.”
Besides preventing tax dollars from directly funding abortions, the Hyde Amendment, which was originally bipartisan, has been passed annually for 43 years, she wrote. But the provision’s most important contribution is the number of human persons alive today because of its existence. According to Rose, the Hyde Amendment “Saves 60,000 children yearly” and “Has saved 2 million children” total.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, confirms those numbers. According to associate scholar Michael New, “The Hyde Amendment routinely saves more than 60,000 lives in the United States every year.”
“Since 1976, the best research indicates that the Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million unborn children,” he wrote.
Abortion supporters know the Hyde Amendment makes a difference. But the pro-life movement counts two million of them.