Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Despicable Filibuster

Senate minority leader Harry Reid (Getty Images)

Abortion has been legal throughout the United States for 42 years, and for nearly 40 years Congress has repeatedly authorized general prohibitions on the use of public funds to pay for it through legislative language called the Hyde amendment, named for Illinois Republican Henry Hyde. Hyde-amendment language or similar provisions routinely are attached to appropriations bills and to other legislation to which it is relevant, from the Affordable Care Act to the Defense Authorization Act. Democrats have not only accepted this as uncontroversial but have positively celebrated it. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, assured his constituents as recently as 2009: “My belief in the sanctity of life is why I have repeatedly voted against using taxpayer money for abortions.”

It was good while it lasted.

The Hyde-amendment language appears in a bill authored by Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) to direct some of the money collected from fines imposed on human traffickers to pay for services for trafficking victims. The bill commanded wide bipartisan support — with the inclusion of the Hyde amendment — until Democrats “noticed it last week,” as USA Today puts it, and pronounced themselves “caught off guard” by an ordinary legislative provision that has been around since the first season of Laverne & Shirley was on television. Democrats not only are declining to support the bill but are in fact filibustering it.

And who is leading that filibuster? Senator Reid, of course, who is so proud of his record of having “voted against using taxpayer money for abortions.”

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), mischievous fellow that he is, has in turn said that he would like to get around to scheduling a vote on Loretta Lynch, whom Barack Obama would very much like to see confirmed as attorney general, but that the delay on the Cornyn trafficking bill will unfortunately delay those hearings.

What is happening is this: Democrats, demoralized at their resounding pounding in the last congressional elections, are hoping for a new skirmish in the culture war, believing (wrongly, we think) that a fight over abortion will be good for them. Senator Reid is up for reelection in 2016, and he is conscious of the fact that the case for sending the minority leader back to Washington is not nearly as strong as the case for returning a majority leader, his juice having been somewhat drained away. (Those cowboy-poetry festivals are not going to pay for themselves!) The abortion lobby commands vast amounts of campaign money and other political resources, and Democrats are taking the opportunity to reiterate their fealty to the peculiar breed of monomania that inflicts organizations such as EMILY’s List and NARAL, the latter of which cares so very much about abortion that it excised the word from its name for marketing purposes.

There are thousands of people, overwhelmingly women, who have been brought to this country by human traffickers and are being held as virtual slaves, often (but not exclusively) for the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. These are human beings reduced to the condition of meat, and they need many kinds of help – and the only thing that Harry Reid et al. care about is whether they are eligible under the law for a publicly financed abortion.

This is a ghastly elevation of politics over basic human decency. Specifically, it is an indefensible elevation of Harry Reid’s political interests over those of the most vulnerable among us.

The Democrats’ cynical misdirection aside, the question here is not about whether trafficking victims who have become pregnant and desire abortions have access to them. Planned Parenthood alone makes a few hundred million dollars a year in “excess revenue” – none dare call it “profit” – out of which subsidies for such situations might easily be paid. Rather, the crusade for public funding of abortions is a social and political cause aimed at the normalization of abortion. NARAL et al. demand public funding for roughly the same reason that the conspirators in the Roman senate demanded that each of its members put a knife into Caesar with his own hand: If everyone has blood on his hands, it is inconvenient to call the crime what it is.

We are not especially eager to see Loretta Lynch confirmed as attorney general, and we trust that Senator McConnell is a patient man. That being said, the Cornyn bill deserves support, and Americans deserve a government that has enough respect for the individual conscience — if not the value of human life — that no one is compelled to participate, financially or otherwise, in the bloody business of abortion. That the partisans of compulsion have the audacity to call themselves “pro-choice” in this matter is a testament to the intellectual dishonesty of the times in which we live — as is the doublespeak coming from Senator Reid.

But the politics cannot be allowed to overshadow the awful reality here: the thousands of women who, having been held hostage by human traffickers, are now being held hostage by Harry Reid. 

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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