Perhaps you have heard the saying abortion advocates often like to repeat: ‘if you don’t like abortion, then don’t get one.’
Well, we not only don’t like abortions, we don’t like being forced to pay for them or to do anything else that would facilitate the termination of the life of an unborn child. Yet that is precisely what abortion advocates want us to do.
In a first for either political party, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform has made a clear break with America’s longstanding policies prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortion.
The Democratic Platform promises to “support the repeal” of the Helms Amendment and to “overturn…federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”
These two amendments have long served as a bulwark in protecting the conscience rights of tens of millions of Americans like you and I, Americans who are absolutely opposed to the use of their tax dollars to pay for abortions.
The Platform also promises to “repeal” the Mexico City Policy, which it disparagingly refers to as the “global gag rule,” which under previous administrations had prevented American taxpayer dollars from funding organizations that perform abortions abroad.
Policies barring taxpayer money from being used to pay for abortion have long been uncontroversial and a rare point of bipartisanship for both Democrats and Republicans. For decades, most lawmakers realized that forcing all Americans to subsidize abortion, many of which are strongly opposed on moral grounds, was simply not good public policy.
While abortion advocates have long desired to see the floodgates of government funding opened to subsidizing abortion procedures, publicly advocating for taxpayer-funded abortion has long been perceived, even on the left, as a third rail in politics.
Few laws or policies have had a greater effect in protecting the lives of the unborn than Hyde and Helms. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Hyde Amendment, has saved over 2.13 million lives since it was first included in the annual federal appropriations bill.
What are Americans’ Views on Taxpayer-Funded Abortion?
The Democratic Party’s shift on the issue is monumental and represents the most significant shift on the abortion issue in the Party over the past decade. But are average Americans on-board with the position flip on this issue? Recent polls seem to indicate otherwise.
This past summer, a Knight’s of Columbus/Marist poll found that 62% of Americans, including 61% of Independents, are opposed to taxpayer-funded abortion.
A recent Politico/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll also found similar results. Among likely voters, only 36% of Americans say they are supportive of federal funding for abortion through Medicaid. Survey respondents remained strongly opposed even as the Politico/Harvard poll prefaced the question by reminding respondents that “Medicaid is the largest government program that pays for health care for low-income people.”
And while a majority of Democrats are now in favor of taxpayer-funded abortion, the issue is still contentious on the left as 44% of Democrats and 45% of people who describe themselves as “pro-choice” oppose it, according to KoC/Marist. Perhaps it may surprise some Democrats to know that women are more likely than men to be opposed to taxpayer-funded abortion (63% to 61%) and that the racial group most opposed to taxpayer funding for abortion is African Americans (31% for and 65% against), although the differences for both groups were not statistically significant.
Despite Democrats’ claim that a repeal of the Hyde Amendment would help low-income women, polling indicates that low-income women are less in favor of taxpayer-funded abortion than high-income women. According to Politico/Harvard, likely voters making less than $25,000 a year were much less supportive of federal funding of abortion through Medicaid (24% supportive) than voters making over $75,000 a year (45% supportive).
A few states already subsidize some or all “medically necessary” abortions under Medicaid; however the vast majority of these policy changes were imposed by court order. If the Hyde Amendment is repealed, Americans in every state will be forced to subsidize abortion through their federal taxes. The policy change would be particularly poignant for people living in the 35 states and the District of Columbia (shown in green below) where the repeal of Hyde would represent the first time residents would be forced to pay for abortion beyond cases of life, rape, and incest since 1980.
There is no indication that many Americans, aside from those involved in the abortion industry, are pining for more liberalized abortion laws either. Nearly 80% of registered voters, according to the KoC/Marist poll, think that abortion should be restricted to the first trimester or to cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother.
Abortion in U.S. Foreign Aid Programs
Americans are not alone in their opposition to expansive abortion policies. While the Hyde Amendment has prevented the government from funding abortion domestically, the Helms Amendment has similarly functioned as one of a number of laws that has prevented taxpayer money from being used to fund abortion in U.S. foreign aid programs. A repeal of the Helms Amendment would allow federal funds to provide abortions in maternal/child health and family planning/reproductive health programs abroad.
Opinion polling from the Pew Research Center and the World Values Survey, wave 6 (WVS-6) show that, not only are countries which received U.S. foreign aid morally opposed to abortion, they are, on average, more opposed to abortion than Americans.
According to WVS-6 data, countries where the U.S. Government spent money on country-specific maternal health or family planning programs in 2015 generally considered abortion as unjustifiable under most circumstances. On a 10-point scale (with 1 signifying that abortion is never justifiable and 10 signifying that abortion is always justifiable), for countries where opinion data was available, abortion was ranked 2.6 on average (n = 36,880; Median = 1.0). Americans, on the other hand, were found to be generally neutral on the issue with an average score of 4.8 (n = 2,168; Median = 5.0).
It is a mistake for lawmakers in the United States to gauge policies on abortion in foreign aid based on domestic sentiment on the issue. As the opinion data shows, abortion views in America, particularly on the left, are clearly out of sync with public opinion in countries where the U.S. Government is providing aid.
Funding for abortion as a matter of foreign policy would threaten to tarnish the image and reputation projected by U.S. foreign aid programs abroad. Repeal of the Helms Amendment would fail to respect the cultural atmosphere and moral sensibilities for many in countries where U.S. foreign aid programs operate. In pro-life countries where American foreign assistance is present, it is not enough for aid programs to only follow the minimum requirements for laws restricting abortion. Successful foreign assistance requires that the program have a good reputation locally and must secure a sense of trust. A program that performs abortions on America’s dime violates this sense of trust among persons who realize that all life is worth protecting. Liberalizing abortion policies for U.S. foreign aid programs is, to put it simply, bad foreign policy.
Repealing Hyde Will Hurt Long-Term Economic Growth
Some abortion advocates have proposed that repealing Hyde will help low-income women. While in the short-term, childcare expenses may remain constant or even increase for mothers struggling to make ends meet, there is no price tag that can be placed on the value of a human life, nor any financial hardship that can justify the termination of unborn life.
But even from a purely utilitarian point of view, no-one remains a child forever—people are not merely consumers, but innovators. The sheer loss of life that would result following the repeal of the Hyde Amendment would undoubtedly hurt economic growth long-term. Children spared from abortion on account of Hyde have grown up (or will grow up) to be the next generation of doctors, lawyers, scientists, and engineers. They contribute to their communities in meaningful ways and provide human ingenuity in the marketplace in ways that no commodity or other source of capital could ever truly replace. Women who struggle to provide for their children and themselves early in life may reap dividends down the road as their grown children may provide them with financial security and companionship in their old age.
The argument that being born into poverty only breeds worse poverty does not seem to be true either. While it is true that outcomes are generally notably worse for persons born into poverty than their peers in higher socioeconomic brackets, it does not appear to be true that these trends are getting worse but are, if anything, reversing. As recent history has consistently shown, more people, even in developing countries, means more productivity, less poverty, and more opportunity. Since 1990, the percentage of people living with hunger in developing countries has markedly decreased from 24% to 14%. The world population is greater now than at any point in history. Yet there is less disease, less poverty, less hunger in the world today than ever before.
Moreover, taxpayer-funded abortion would further add to the tax burden already heavy for many middle-class Americans. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a repeal of Hyde would increase the number of abortions in the United States by approximately 33,000 unborn lives annually. This could conservatively cost American taxpayers $13.2 million dollars a year. It is doubtful that the added tax burden or loss of health services in other areas due to a shifting of funds would promote the growth of small businesses or add jobs to the workforce in any sector of the economy with the exception of perhaps the abortion industry.
But most importantly, Hyde and Helms have saved countless lives. Many of the millions of children spared from abortion through these pro-life policies today have families of their own, provide support for their parents when they are old, and are for someone a beloved mother or father, a spouse, or son or daughter that their loved ones cannot imagine living without.
 Exceptions: under Medicaid, Georgia last funded abortion in 1981, 1985 in Pennsylvania, from 2009-2011 in the District of Columbia, and through funding separate from Medicaid, North Carolina until 1995. See New, MJ. Hyde @ 40: analyzing the impact of the Hyde Amendment. Washington, DC: Charlotte Lozier Institute, 2016 (Issue 12).