House Democrats appear at odds with the party's 2020 presidential candidates over using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives is reportedly backing away from repealing the Hyde Amendment, the 1976 policy that has prevented federal funding for abortion. Democrats have debated sneaking a repeal of Hyde into the $190 billion Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. If it were to pass, federal taxpayer dollars could directly be used to pay for abortions. But supporters have run into opposition from within their own ranks.
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"I think we don't have the votes that we need," amendment sponsor Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) said. "It's frustrating. I actually think the country is with us."
Jayapal's position is not backed up by polling on the issue. A recent Marist poll found that 54 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, with only 39 percent supporting it.
The Hyde Amendment has been one of the most consequential pro-life policies adopted since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Charlotte Lozier Institute, a project of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, estimates that the Hyde Amendment has saved more than 2 million lives since its enactment. It traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, but abortion activists and lobbyists have won over prominent Democrats in calling for its repeal, including nearly every 2020 hopeful.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who supported the Hyde Amendment throughout his career, recently flipped his position after a pressure campaign from not only his primary opponents but his own staff. He faced fierce criticism from the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of the nation's top abortion provider, called the Hyde Amendment "discriminatory" and said it was "unacceptable" for any candidate to support it.
"To support the Hyde Amendment is to block people—particularly women of color and women with low incomes—from accessing safe, legal abortion," PPAF executive director Kelley Robinson said in a statement prior to Biden's renunciation of the policy. "It is unacceptable for a candidate to support policies that further restrict abortion."
Supporters of the Hyde Amendment argue that this opposition from Democrats will diminish their odds against President Donald Trump in the general election. Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, told the Free Beacon that presidential contenders should take note of their party-mates in Congress. Voters, including many who identify as pro-choice, have reiterated to pollsters that taxpayer-funded abortion "is a nonstarter."
"Forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on-demand is a deeply unpopular position and a political loser," Quigley said. "Democrats with White House ambitions should take a look at what's happening both on the Hill and in the polls—their radical position on Hyde will cost them."
Democrats' embrace of taxpayer-funded abortions is not unique to the 2020 field. New York Democrats adopted one of the nation's most expansive late-term abortion laws at the start of 2019, sparking a flood of similar bills in other heavily Democrat states, while Republicans adopted further restrictions on the practice from Georgia to Alabama and Missouri. Democratic governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana has been the sole party figure to embrace pro-life legislation, signing a heartbeat bill in May. His support among Democrats plummeted, according to a June poll. The party's base and policymakers have moved in a steadily liberal direction since former President Bill Clinton's "safe, legal, and rare" rhetoric in the 1990s. Democrats first endorsed taxpayer-funded abortion during Hillary Clinton's failed run against President Trump.
"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," the 2016 platform stated.
Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said he was encouraged to see the Hyde Amendment included in the spending bill. He is still disturbed by the direction of the Democratic Party. Reports of the Hyde Amendment's survival came hours before Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a radical abortion bill repealing or undermining previously bipartisan laws about parental notification, partial-birth abortion, and clinic safety regulations. McClusky said the party's attitude toward abortion can be seen in its presidential hopefuls, as well as abortion regulations that House Democrats continue to target even amid veto threats from President Trump.
"The decision by House Democrats to let the Hyde Amendment stay in the spending bill shows just how radical the slate of 2020 Democratic candidates are on taxpayer funding for abortion," he said. "Threats to other pro-life provisions in the spending bill are still very real: repeal of the Protect Life Rule, cutting conscience protections, allowing for human fetal tissue experimentation, and reinstating funding for foreign abortion providers all are still on the table."