Henry Hyde’s enduring work

A couple of weeks ago, I let an important day slip by without comment. Time to make amends. I hereby note the thirty-seventh anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. In 1976, it was the first substantive federal measure to limit the use of tax dollars for abortion. To this day, abortion providers hate it, even though it has exceptions. Those exceptions have led some pro-lifers to oppose it, too.

I’m not one of them. Anything that limits access to my pocket by abortion providers is okay with me. I’m no expert on the measure, but here is what I’ve seen of it (and yes, I’m old enough to have been around when it was first passed).

In 1976, Henry Hyde (RIP) was a Congressman representing an area just outside Chicago. He had been elected in 1974 and was to serve in the House for thirty-two years. In ’76, though, he was just another congressman barely known outside his district. That changed when he drafted a rider to the federal Health, Education, and Welfare budget to keep federal funds from being used to fund abortions within HEW programs, particularly Medicaid. (HEW was later folded into the Department of Health and Human Services.) He persuaded his colleagues to accept that rider, which has been attached to every HHS budget since.

The amendment (rider, actually) has outlived its author. Hyde died in 2007, just a few months after leaving office.

The amendment has been through some changes. Exceptions for funding abortions in case of rape, incest, and health of the mother were added. Abortion advocates dragged the amendment to the Supreme Court, and the measure survived. All this, just to put somewhere into federal law a way to keep pro-life Americans from helping to fund the abortion industry.

We’re not totally disentangled from the industry, by a long shot. Hyde applies only to the HHS budget. The rider could be dropped anytime, despite its long standing. States may use their own funds to pay for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women. Now, Obamacare is creating new ways to force taxpayers into collusion with abortion providers, chiefly through the HHS mandate.

Even so, thanks to the foresight of an Illinois congressman, abortion funding has never been something that abortion providers can take for granted. Providers cast Hyde’s work as something that discriminates against poor women. They evince no similar concern for the poor children killed by abortion.

I think well of Henry Hyde. I hope his tenacity will serve as an example to pro-life elected officials for a long time to come.

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