WASHINGTON — A group of pro-life Democrats and other pro-life activists gathered on Capitol Hill and across the country Saturday to oppose the exclusion of a long-standing ban on federal tax dollars being used to fund most abortions in a recently passed spending bill.
The Democrats for Life of America hosted a “Save Hyde National Day of Action." The flagship rally took place in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background.
Satellite events took place in 21 different locations nationwide. Dan Green, DFLA’s national communications director, estimated in an interview with The Christian Post that up to 1,000 people would likely attend the events.
The day of action comes just one month after President Joe Biden signed into law a coronavirus relief package that did not have Hyde Amendment protections guaranteeing that federal tax dollars can't be used to pay for abortions in most cases.
“If [Democrats] keep going down this road, where they want to fund abortion and ignore the needs of women, … it’s going to be a tough 2022 for Democrats," DFLA Executive Director Kristen Day told CP.
The Hyde Amendment has existed in some form since 1976, three years after the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade. Every year, the amendment has been affirmed by Congress as part of a Department of Health and Human Services appropriations bill. The most recent version of the measure included exceptions for Medicaid funds to fund abortions in the case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Both before and after the 2020 presidential election, top congressional Democrats vowed to do away with the Hyde Amendment. Polling has shown that restrictions on tax dollars being used to fund abortions enjoy wide support among the American public.
Between three and four dozen people gathered in front of the Supreme Court to show support for the measure.
While Democrats for Life of America hosted the event, the event featured speakers and attendees from all political persuasions and religious backgrounds.
Speakers discussed the Hyde Amendment's popularity, called on attendees to put pressure on their elected representatives to preserve Hyde and stressed the need to make the pro-life movement more bipartisan.
Terrisa Bukovinac serves as president of the DFLA’s board of directors and is the founder and executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco, another group of pro-life Democrats.
Speaking with CP before the event, she declared that she hopes people understand that the "Hyde Amendment is one of the most effective resources we have as Americans to limit the number of abortions that are occurring in our nation.”
“Giving voice to this cause … and really magnifying our grassroots efforts will help bring attention to this issue, will help bring the attention of the senators and the members of Congress on this issue," Bukovinac said. "So, we’re hoping that it will moderate some of their opinions, that they will see that there’s a nationwide effort to support the Hyde Amendment and that will compel them to protect it."
Bukovinac criticized the Biden administration’s newly announced commission to study possible reforms to the Supreme Court, including expanding the number of Supreme Court justices and limiting the amount of time justices can serve on the bench.
“We would be very, very concerned that expanding the court would be detrimental to the unborn," she said.
While Bukovinac identifies as a liberal and an atheist with no intention of changing parties, she made her discontent with the Biden administration’s abortion policies quite clear.
“The Biden administration is the most extreme, most radical pro-abortion administration in the history of our nation," the activist said. “Repealing the Hyde Amendment and forcing the taxpayer funding of abortions would increase abortion dramatically in this country at all gestational ages, and that’s absolutely terrifying."
Bukovinac described the appointment of HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra as “extremely concerning,” citing the possibility that he will “expand fetal tissue research,” which she characterized as one of “the worst aspects of pro-abortion extremism in America today that is going to be expanded and funded by this administration.”
“The time to push back is now,” she argued. “Pro-life Democrats for many years have tried to play nice and have a seat at the table and try to demonstrate that there are pro-life Democrats in the party and that … we do care about other issues. And yet, that strategy has not done very well for us. It has only led us down this horrific path of abortion extremism, and I think the time has come where people are ready to be seen in public and on the streets advocating for this issue.”
Bukovinac predicted that there will be "more and more pro-life Democrats rising up and resisting this pro-abortion influence" in the Democratic Party "because they have gone too far."
She argued that the Biden administration’s stance on abortion might cause the president and his party to lose support in upcoming elections because Democrats "cannot rely on those votes going forward because of the dynamic of Trump in the last election."
“Democrats for Life of America did not endorse Joe Biden," she assured. "I did not vote for Joe Biden. But my sense is that many pro-life Democrats did, and I think that many did it because of their reluctance to support President Trump. And I think … given … a different scenario … in the next four years, I think that the Democrats have a reason to be afraid that pro-life Democrats will rise up and hit them in the … ballot box and in the polls.”
Day agreed with Bukovinac.
“There’s a lot of independents and swing voters that will not vote,” Day stated. “In 2016, a lot of pro-life Democrats did not vote for Hillary Clinton. A lot of pro-life Democrats stayed home that year.”
She suggested that in 2020, “There was so much anti-Trump sentiment that I think that overshadowed the … life issue a little bit because people were just so disgusted with President Trump."
"So I think there was a shift where people did vote for Biden … within the pro-life Democrat spectrum because they wanted to see … a more compassionate government," Day contended.
“I think 2022 will … kind of shift back to that 2016 era where the abortion issue is going to be the No. 1 issue that will push people to vote one way or the other.”
Maria and Julia, two members of American University’s Students for Life chapter, explained that they "wanted to come out in support to make sure that the Hyde Amendment is not repealed."
“I think that there’s a big fear from the Democratic Party that the court right now is extremely conservative and that they know that the court has the ability to make abortion policy that could basically take down their whole position,” Maria shared.
She asserted that Democrats want to “attack the court in a way that helps support their policy, but it’s completely unconstitutional." She believes "no president ever has done something that extreme just to push a policy.”
“I think it’s really unfortunate that [they] fear the pro-life movement advancing itself through the court,” she continued. “They’re attacking the whole Constitution by doing that, and I think … it’s very much out of fear.”
DFLA Maryland State Director Kathy Kelly expressed a desire to see Biden “build on the unity that he promised by respecting our conscience rights [and] by respecting the taxpayers, since there’s wide taxpayer support for maintaining the Hyde Amendment.”
Noting that taxpayer-funded abortions already exist in her state, she illustrated how “injuries to women that late-term abortion has caused in Bethesda and chemical abortion debacles in the state” demonstrate that “we don’t need more abortion and more funding of abortion” at the federal level.
Blayne Clegg, the president of the Catholic University College Republicans, told CP that the Hyde Amendment "has provably and verifiably saved thousands of American lives over the decades."
"Unfortunately, that bipartisan tradition has been wasted away and … degraded by political opportunists like Joe Biden despite the fact that he voted for it for the first time in 1976 and then overrode President [Gerald] Ford’s veto again and then voted for it again in 1978," Clegg stated.
“He has kowtowed and bent the knee to the progressive wing of his party,” he lamented.
Reacting to the Biden administration’s creation of a commission looking at expanding the Supreme Court, which critics refer to as court-packing, Clegg said that “I think it’s really quite remarkable how brazen the Democrat Party can be with ideas like this.”
“I mean, every American high school student who had half an eye open during history class understands that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme was an absolute disaster," Clegg added. "It was a very clear power grab. We knew it back then and we know it now.”
Other speakers at the event include Michael New, a professor at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, pro-life student activists and Americans United for Life President Catherine Glenn Foster.
In between speeches, Bukovinac led the crowd in chants of “Save Hyde! Save lives!” Additionally, she held up a model of a 21-week-old baby when warning that “babies are going to die if Hyde is repealed, and that means all gestational ages up until the moment of birth.”
DFLA Vice President Xavier Bisits, a native of Australia, spoke about how “Australia and America are very similar in many respects, but there is one big difference." He said that "in Australia, one in four pregnancies are aborted. And in America, that number’s actually lower, it’s around [18%.]”
“In some of the most pro-life states in this country, it’s 10 to 15%. That is the difference between thousands of deaths or none,” he continued. “A big reason for that is funding. In Australia, we have fully funded abortion by the federal and state government.”
He warned that federally funding abortions in the U.S. would dramatically increase the number of abortions across the country.
Liz Matory, the vice president of government relations at the nonprofit pro-life organization And Then There Were None, warned that the absence of Hyde Amendment protections would lead to a “mass genocide, particularly in reference to the black and brown community here in the United States and, quite frankly, the world.”
“Everyone agrees — pro-life researchers, pro-choice researchers — when you start funding abortion with taxpayer dollars, abortion rates go up. That is irrefutable," New said.
He cited research from the pro-abortion organization Guttmacher Institute, which used to serve as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, finding that when “you cut off taxpayer funding for abortion, abortion rates go down, lives are saved.”
New also mentioned a study from The Center for Reproductive Rights, another pro-abortion rights organization, concluding that “the Hyde Amendment had saved over 1 million lives since 1976.”
In his capacity as a scholar for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, New discovered that the Hyde Amendment had saved “over 2.4 million lives since 1976 and continues to save over 60,000 lives every year.”
Kelly said that in Maryland, the state already pays for Medicaid abortions through state taxes.
“Since we Marylanders are neither stupid nor pushovers, we’re not going to roll over and cheerfully finance the killing of the children we seek to save and the medical violence against the women who are already suffering in Maryland from terrible injuries and chemical abortion debacles," Kelly said.
“Do we want to add federal funding of abortion to this existing pro-abortion mess in Maryland?”
As the event came to a close, Bukovinac pushed back on the idea that pro-life Democrats should abandon the party in favor of the Republican Party, which a handful of speakers suggested.
“The answer is not to leave," Bukovinac said. "The answer is to stand up and be seen and be empowered by my voice and the voices of so many diverse people here and in America today demonstrating in over 21 locations across the country.”
Democrats for Life of America reached out to former President Jimmy Carter as part of its effort to save the Hyde Amendment.
Green, the DFLA communications director, told CP that the organization's leaders took a pilgrimage to the Carters' hometown of Plains, Georgia and spoke with Carter at his church.
“He is a pro-life Democrat and in 2004, he signed a letter with us to the Democratic National Convention saying that ... the Democratic Party needs to moderate its position on abortion," Green explained. "So he's helped us with things before. So, we're trying to get his help on those, and just to help us speak with leaders of the DNC, and the leaders of the party and just kind of be a voice for us.”