After a Democratic senator boasted on Wednesday that his party’s Medicare bill would repeal the Hyde Amendment, pro-life groups are pushing back, stressing that the longstanding policy has saved lives.
“This month marks the 41st anniversary of the Hyde Amendment and in that time it has been found that over 2 million lives have been saved,” said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. “The senator might think we'd be better off without those people,” McClusky said, “however I know 2 million lives who would disagree and are thankful they aren't targeted by Sen. Blumenthal.”
On Wednesday, senators from both parties released dueling health care bills. Senate Republicans, led by Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), introduced their proposal which would, among other things, repeal the Affordable Care Act and feature block grants to states to pay for health care coverage. Senate Democrats, led by 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2017, a single-payer proposal which would expand eligibility for Medicare to all Americans.
During the press conference introducing the act, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the bill would protect women’s “reproductive rights” and would do away with the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions.
“I want to single out two groups of people. Number one, the women of America. They have been denied health care for too long because of restrictions like the Hyde Amendment,” Blumenthal said. “Consider the Hyde Amendment history if we pass Medicare for All, and all those other restrictions on reproductive rights,” he said.
The Hyde Amendment was introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). It is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year. As a policy that has been supported by members of both parties, it prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, reported on the Hyde Amendment on its 40th anniversary in 2016, and estimated that it had saved over 2 million lives by reducing the overall number of abortions. Using data from 20 different studies, the institute concluded that the policy resulted in at least 2 million more pregnancies carried to term — 60,000 per year — than there would have been if Medicaid dollars had subsidized abortions.
However, during the 2016 election, Democrats called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment in their party’s platform. “We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion — regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” the platform stated. “We will continue to oppose — and seek to overturn — federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”
Meanwhile, the Republican senators introducing their health care proposal on Wednesday claimed that it contains pro-life provisions, like stripping the leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood of any Medicaid reimbursements and ensuring that federal subsidies or tax credits don’t pay for abortion coverage in the insurance market.
The Susan B. Anthony List, meanwhile, reserved its official judgment on the bill until it had reviewed the language. “SBA List will need time to review the language carefully to ensure that it will roll back taxpayer funding of abortion under Obamacare and re-direct abortion giant Planned Parenthood’s tax funding to community health centers,” the group said in a written statement.