Last week, President Biden released his $6 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, which includes significant spending increases on infrastructure and social programs. Even more notable, Mr. Biden’s budget proposal does not contain the Hyde Amendment — an annual appropriations rider that limits the ability of the federal government to use tax dollars to fund abortions through Medicaid, the best known of about two dozen similar long-standing policies.
By omitting the Hyde Amendment and other similar pro-life amendments, President Biden has made it clear that he wants to force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions.
This marks an extremely significant departure from precedent. Mr. Biden’s proposed budget is the first presidential budget proposal in 28 years that has not included the Hyde Amendment. President Clinton’s first budget proposal, released in the spring of 1993, was the most recent presidential budget that did not include Hyde protections.
However, Hyde language was included in appropriations legislation that Mr. Clinton signed into law later that year. Since that time, every presidential budget proposal, including the remaining budgets proposed by Mr. Clinton and all eight budgets proposed by President Obama, has included the Hyde Amendment.
Indeed, even though the political parties have grown polarized on the issue of abortion, the Hyde Amendment has a long-standing tradition of bipartisan support. In 1976, 107 House Democrats supported the original Hyde Amendment. However, the Democratic Party has left this legacy behind.
In 2016, the Democratic Party’s platform for called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. All of the major candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020 opposed the Hyde Amendment, including Joe Biden, who had consistently supported the Hyde Amendment as a U.S. senator. In fact, in a 1994 letter to a constituent, then-Sen. Biden bragged that he had voted against taxpayer funding of abortion no fewer than 50 times.
Today, President Biden and other Democratic elected officials are increasingly out of step with the American public — supporting abortion on demand, paid for by taxpayers, up to birth. A substantial body of survey data clearly shows that Hyde Amendment enjoys broad public support.
Since June 2016 there have been eight national polls conducted on the issue of taxpayer funding of abortion. These polls used different question wordings and were conducted by a range of reputable organizations including Politico, the Public Religion Research Institute, and YouGov. The average margin of the eight polls was 20.5 points in favor of preventing taxpayer-funding of abortion.
Sadly, this newfound opposition to the Hyde Amendment among Democratic elected officials has the potential to end the lives of countless unborn children and violate the conscience rights of taxpayers by making them complicit in the destruction of innocent human life. There is an extremely strong consensus that the Hyde Amendment saves lives. At least 15 academic studies show that the limits on Medicaid coverage for abortion lower abortion rates (something prominent Democratic Party leaders used to agree on, at least by paying lip service to the idea that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”).
The Center for Reproductive Rights released an analysis in 2010 which stated that the Hyde Amendment had prevented 1 million abortions since 1976. My 2016 Charlotte Lozier Institute study revised in 2020 found that the Hyde Amendment has saved 2.4 million lives since 1976 and continues to save approximately 60,000 lives every year.
Abortion is one of the most heated issues in American politics. As such, it is commendable that for over 40 years, there has been a bipartisan effort to safeguard the lives of unborn children, the health, safety and dignity of their mothers and the conscience rights of taxpayers by ensuring that federal Medicaid dollars do not pay for abortion on demand.
Unfortunately, many Democrats, including President Biden, have become increasingly beholden to the abortion lobby and no longer support the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life laws with support from Americans on both sides of the aisle. In January, Mr. Biden frequently spoke of unity during his inaugural address. His actions do not match his rhetoric. By abandoning the Hyde Amendment and the principle it stands for, President Biden is pursuing not unity, but instead a path of polarization and division.
• Michael J. New is a research associate at The Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New
Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter