Democrats Should Listen to Their Constituents on Taxpayer-Funded Abortion | Opinion

Later this week, when President Joe Biden releases his first detailed budget, he will almost certainly make an unusual omission. For the first time in 40 years, a regular budget is expected to exclude a popular, bipartisan policy: the Hyde Amendment.

Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has stipulated that federal tax dollars cannot be used to fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the pregnant person's life is in danger. Like any form of subsidy, this amendment makes it more likely that pregnant people will use Medicaid funds to have a child, rather than to end their child's life. Most U.S. states without either federal or state funding of abortion have a pregnancy termination rate of 5-15 percent. The states that do fund abortions, such as California and New York, have much higher rates: 20-30 percent.

Even the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute acknowledges that millions of additional people are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment. One in four children born to mothers on Medicaid owe their lives to the Hyde Amendment, which saved an estimated 2.4 million children. Two million unique, irreplaceable, infinitely valuable people—roughly equivalent to the population of Houston—are here today because of this piece of legislation. A large proportion of these lives are children of color, born to low-income parents.

As Black and brown activists such as Christina Bennett have pointed out, there are disturbing racial implications to the federal government offering to fund a low-income woman's abortion, but not her yearly dental exam. As liberals and proponents of intersectional feminism, we cannot ignore that the United States has a history of targeted sterilization and eugenicist policies. In a country with the thinnest safety net in the developed world, subsidizing abortion rather than spending money to support families reflects a gross misplacement of priorities.

Abortion advocates, including the 154 members of Congress sponsoring a bill to permanently end the Hyde Amendment, claim that a repeal is necessary to attain health care equity for poor people and people of color. However, these populations are in fact more likely than their more affluent counterparts to identify as pro-life. In fact, one study found that high-income voters were almost twice as likely as low-income voters to support Medicaid-funded abortion. A separate study asking specifically about the Hyde Amendment found that white women with college degrees are twice as likely to support state-funded abortions as those without college degrees.

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, in Dearborn, Michigan on May 18, 2021. Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images

The unspoken subtext is that wealthy Americans often view abortion as a welcome solution to poverty. Congressional Democrats are more guarded in their words, but online dialogue reveals how many think about abortion. One viral tweet with 180,000 likes claims that limiting abortion means "more poor kids, more abused kids, more traumatized kids."

With 60 percent of Americans and a plurality of Democratic women in favor of the Hyde Amendment, the data could not be clearer. The populations most affected by Hyde want more funding for programs that will actually strengthen families, not more dollars going to the abortion industry.

There is broad support among a wide cross-section of Americans for pro-family policies like the American Rescue Plan's $3,000 child tax credit, which experts say will help millions of low-income children and cut the U.S. child poverty rate in half. Another looming concern for many Americans is the maternal mortality crisis, the brunt of which falls on low-income Black and brown women. These are the real issues that deserve government attention.

Instead of pushing for federal tax dollars to fund violence against the smallest, most vulnerable human beings, Democrats should focus on progressive, pro-life policies that protect the well being of both pregnant people and their children.

The government should always prioritize and fund life-affirming, non-violent programs. Lives depend on it.

Sophie Trist is Messaging Director for Democrats for Life of America. Xavier Bisits is Vice President of Democrats for Life of America.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.