Abortions have been a constitutionally protected elective medical practice since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. Even though abortion has been legal since that time, a sizable number of Americans have resisted using taxpayer funding to pay for elective abortions.
Since 1976, every federal appropriations bill has included what has become known as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of practically all abortions.
Similarly, the Helms Amendment, which prohibits foreign aid to fund abortions internationally, has been part of every spending bill since 1973.
Last week, the Democrats in the House voted to kill both amendments for the first time since Roe. And they did it unanimously.
Government funding of abortion leads to more abortions, and federal financing gives that increase nationwide effect. A study that was published last year concluded that the Hyde Amendment had saved the lives of more than 2.4 million American children since 1976. Other studies have shown that abortion funding through Medicaid directly leads to a much higher abortion rate among Medicaid recipients.
The attention now falls to the Senate, where the filibuster rule requires 60 votes for appropriation bills, preserving Senate Republicans’ ability to halt the passage of any bill, excluding the Hyde and Helms Amendments.
The implication is clear: Democrats are ready to fully fund on-demand abortion using taxpayer funds if they have the numbers to make it happen.
If Democrats hold the House and gain more seats in the Senate in next year’s midterm elections, they could eliminate the Senate’s filibuster rule.
Democrats could also use the budget-reconciliation technique to pass a bill funding abortions with a simple majority. There are methods of working abortion funding into existing programs that Democrats have already discussed to use reconciliation.
The focal point of debate in the Senate as it is currently made up is likely to be Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of the only Democrats left anywhere in Washinton who claims to be pro-life. Manchin said as recently as June that he is “going to support Hyde in every way possible.”
During his many years in the Senate, President Joe Biden was a firm supporter of the Hyde Amendment. However, his reversal of numerous moderate positions since running for president raises severe doubts that he would veto any funding measure that did not include the Hyde Amendment.