Politics & Policy

The Hyde Amendment Should Be Strengthened, Not Abolished

Tim Kaine speaks at the Democratic convention, July 27, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
The Democratic platform notwithstanding, a ban on taxpayer funding for abortion is widely supported. If only it worked.

Over the course of the past month, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine appears to have changed his position on the Hyde Amendment at least three times. Kaine has supported the amendment throughout his political career, and he had reaffirmed his support as recently as July 6.

Shortly after Kaine was selected as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, however, both Clinton’s campaign manager and her spokesman claimed that the Virginia senator had changed his position to align with hers. One asserted that Kaine was 100 percent behind Clinton’s abortion agenda, while the other said he had made a private commitment to support her on the issue.

Following these statements, another spokesman for the Clinton-Kaine ticket said Kaine was not “personally for repeal of the Hyde Amendment” but remained “committed to carrying out Secretary Clinton’s agenda.”

Then, this morning, Kaine said in a CNN interview, “I have been for the Hyde amendment. I haven’t changed my position on that.”

At this point, it’s hard to know what to believe.

The controversy over Kaine’s “flip-flop-flip” is aggravated by the fact that the final Democratic party platform contains the most progressive abortion language in history, including a promise to repeal the Hyde Amendment. In fact, many progressives were displeased with the choice of Kaine as Clinton’s running mate, saying that his personal pro-life values and history of support for the Hyde Amendment make him less-than-committed to abortion-on-demand.

RELATED: Is Tim Kaine a ‘Devout Catholic’?

The progressive position, however, is out-of-step with the American people, 62 percent of whom oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 45 percent of pro-choice Americans and 44 percent of Democrats, according to a new Marist poll.

The back-and-forth on this issue resuscitates a debate that has existed since Roe v. Wade, pitting pro-abortion lawmakers and activists against pro-life citizens and politicians who want to defend conscience rights. Three years after the landmark Supreme Court decision, one such politician, congressman Henry Hyde, proposed an amendment to a federal spending bill that prohibited federal funds from paying for abortions.

Though the amendment has been attached to all major federal spending bills since, abortion giant Planned Parenthood still manages to receive over half a billion dollars from the federal government each year.

RELATED: Clinton’s Only Consistency: Ghastliness on Abortion

As National Review has pointed out before, the fact that money is fungible negates the supposed conscience protection offered by the Hyde Amendment. As long as Planned Parenthood receives any money from the federal government, and as long as the organization continues providing abortions, taxpayers are, in practice, funding those abortions.

Nor does the amendment prevent individual states from forcing taxpayers to cover elective abortions, as 17 states currently do. Meanwhile, several audits have shown that some Planned Parenthood locations commit Medicaid fraud by billing taxpayers for services and supplies related to providing abortions under the guise of “family-planning” costs.

#related#Republican lawmakers need to draw attention to how radical the Democratic calls to abolish the Hyde Amendment really are. They should capitalize on the fact that conscience rights are important to the American people and, along with Democratic leaders such as Joe Manchin and Bob Casey, strengthen the Hyde Amendment to prevent all taxpayer money from going toward abortion. In fact, even Tim Kaine might support such an agenda, were he not now shackled to Clinton.

— Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.

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