Politics & Policy

The Hyde Amendment Isn’t Enough

(Lucas Jackson/REUTERS)
House Democrats are trying to use COVID-19 relief bills to fund Planned Parenthood.

Though Congress appears unprepared to pass a new phase of the coronavirus-relief legislation until at least next week, House Democrats are hard at work ensuring that it will allow abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood to receive federal assistance.

In earlier phases of the relief bills, Republicans successfully blocked nonprofit organizations set up as affiliates — a category that ostensibly includes Planned Parenthood — from receiving forgivable small-business loans. The previous legislation also included Hyde Amendment language, barring federal funds from directly reimbursing providers for the cost of elective abortion procedures.

But Democrats are ready for another attempt, and the latest iteration of the new stimulus bill in the House includes no Hyde Amendment language. As it stands, the legislation would permit state and local governments to disburse their portion of stimulus funding to abortion providers, make Planned Parenthood eligible for small-business loans, and include elective abortion in subsidized health-care coverage for furloughed workers.

The legislation likely wouldn’t pass the Senate as it is, and the White House has already signaled that President Trump would veto it, but Democrats are determined to force the issue.

Aside from the obvious conscience violations involved in underwriting abortion providers and covering elective abortion, it should be fairly clear that Planned Parenthood is not in fact a small business and therefore should not qualify for small-business loans. According to its most recent financial report, Planned Parenthood had total net assets close to $2 billion and total revenue of about $1.7 billion last fiscal year. More than one-third of that revenue came from government reimbursements and grants, well over half a billion dollars.

Meanwhile, there is little evidence that the pandemic has created any financial problem for Planned Parenthood or prevented its affiliates from conducting their abortion business as usual. In several states, “reproductive health care” was explicitly classified as an essential service, and Planned Parenthood clinics were permitted to remain open and fully functional. In states that classified abortion as nonessential, Planned Parenthood joined other abortion-advocacy groups in swiftly suing to block those rules — and in most states, they won.

Despite routinely classifying itself as a health-care provider, Planned Parenthood has failed to offer any actual health care during the pandemic and has in fact merely ramped up its provision of abortion. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the organization shuttered all its health centers but kept open all its clinics that perform abortions. The president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, the group’s Colorado affiliate, said that its abortion numbers “have been pretty extraordinary” during the pandemic and cited an increase in women traveling from out of state for an abortion.

As stay-at-home orders went into effect across the country, the websites of local Planned Parenthood affiliates began to display messages emphasizing that they would not offer any kind of COVID-19 care, but patients could continue to show up for “essential services” such as abortion.

There is no reason in the world why this organization should be eligible for coronavirus-relief funding, since it has demonstrated no particular difficulty in remaining open during the pandemic to continue profiting from abortion (and doing precious little else).

But the showdown looming in Congress over whether Planned Parenthood should be eligible for stimulus money — or, more specifically, whether Congress should apply the Hyde Amendment to ensure that stimulus money does not directly reimburse the cost of abortion procedures — illustrates one of the fundamental problems with federal abortion policy.

Legal abortion on demand is so enshrined in our policy landscape that the question of federally funding it is now a major sticking point any time Congress has to fund anything related to health care (and now, apparently, businesses). While these fights expose the Democratic Party’s unswerving dedication to taxpayer-funded elective abortion, the average observer likely has little idea that Democrats are willing to hold up a stimulus bill over abortion funding, because media outlets routinely cover these debates from the opposite angle — think, “Republicans obstruct stimulus bill to block funding for women’s health care.”

The best solution to this consistent problem is the simplest one: Stop federally funding abortion altogether. The Hyde Amendment is a small win for pro-lifers, as far as it goes, and if it is our only option, it shouldn’t be abandoned. But it’s not our only option.

The battle Republicans continue to fight over Hyde is the wrong one. The alternatives on the table at the moment are either to directly reimburse abortion providers for the cost of performing abortions or not to do so. But there remains an undiscussed alternative: cease providing federal funds to any organization that performs abortions, whether in a relief bill or otherwise. Doing anything else is, practically speaking, the same as funding abortion.

It is bad enough that we have a judicially manufactured and court-enforced regime of unlimited abortion, removing the abortion debate from the hands of the people and their legislators. It is another thing entirely to have a Congress that can’t even acknowledge the problem with forcing every American to underwrite it.


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