‘The time has come’ to abandon Hyde Amendment: House Democrat

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. | Rosa DeLauro

The incoming chairwoman of an influential committee in the House of Representatives has concluded that “the time has come” to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.

The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing Tuesday to discuss “abortion affordability.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who will serve as chairwoman of the committee in the 117th Congress, began the hearing by ripping into the Hyde Amendment as a “discriminatory policy.”

“For more than 40 years, [the Hyde Amendment] has been routinely extended every year as a legislative rider but the time has come in this current moment to reckon with the norm, with the status quo, view it through the lens of how it impacts communities of color,” she said. “More than half (58%) of the women affected by the Hyde Amendment are women of color. Almost one-third (31%) are black, 27% Latina, nearly one-fifth (19%) Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander women as well as indigenous women also covered by Medicaid.

“While the Labor/HHS/Education bill has carried the Hyde Amendment every year since 1976, this is the last year. The inequities in our country’s healthcare system that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic all further expose the impact of the Hyde Amendment. All of these issues deny the humanity of people of color and their ability to do well for their families and their communities.”

A majority of the witnesses who spoke at the hearing echoed the points made by DeLauro and the other Democrats on the committee. One of the witnesses, Dr. Herminia Palacio of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, maintained, “The Hyde Amendment builds on a legacy of racism. There is a direct line from the reprehensible policies of our past, such as forced sterilization of black women to policies like the Hyde Amendment today.”

“There is a direct line from the fact that enslaved people … even when they had their children, were told they couldn’t parent those children and those children were placed elsewhere. There is a direct line from the way that black bodies have been experimented on … and forced sterilization was the rule of the day,” she added.

The Republicans on the committee strongly pushed back on the idea that the Hyde Amendment is racist. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the vice ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, estimated that “this provision has saved the lives of over two million since it was first adopted in 1976, most of them people of color.”

Christina Bennett, the communications director for the Family Institute of Connecticut, appeared at the hearing and defended the Hyde Amendment. Additionally, she shared her personal story about how her life was saved from abortion at the last minute.

“I was born in 1981, a year after the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Hyde Amendment,” Bennett recalled. “My mother faced intense pressure to abort, leading her to schedule an abortion at Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.”

Bennett explained that “the kind words of an elderly black janitor who asked ‘do you want to have your baby’ gave her the strength to keep me.” She described her mother as one of many women who have “been coerced into abortion and received substandard care from medical professionals.”

“Forcing taxpayers to fund elective abortions means low-income women of color will be prey for an industry that has been found guilty of overbilling Medicaid [and] accepting racially motivated abortion donations,” she warned. “The Hyde Amendment is accused of being racist but it’s not racist to preserve black lives. Hyde protects women from an industry that is actually rooted in racism with a documented history of eugenics philosophy, population control and the unlawful targeting of the black community.”

The House Appropriations Committee hearing comes after House Democrats promised that they would not add the Hyde Amendment to funding bills as early as next year. The fate of the Hyde Amendment will likely depend on the partisan control of the 117th Congress, which remains undecided. While Democrats have maintained control of the House of Representatives, albeit they have a reduced number of seats, control of the Senate will come down to the results of two runoff elections set to take place in Georgia on Jan. 5.

The Democratic presidential platform called for the Hyde Amendment’s repeal and former Vice President Biden reversed his long-standing support for it last year as he sought his party’s nomination for president.

While the repeal of the Hyde Amendment would require support from Congress, Biden has vowed to take executive action to reverse some of the Trump administration’s pro-life initiatives by repealing the Mexico City Policy, which forbids foreign nongovernmental organizations from performing or promoting abortions, and restoring funding to Planned Parenthood under the Affordable Care Act.

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