This week the Biden administration has set itself squarely against the life of the unborn. The sides of this debate are clear and sharp. Sadly, each side is extreme in its arguments. Pro-abortion advocates want access to all abortions, “on-demand”, for any reason. Pro-life advocates often argue for a complete ban on abortions. Each extreme is flawed. Granting full access to abortion, with no qualifications, allows for abortions to be performed up to the moment of birth (and, now, sometimes beyond). This opens the door for practices such as “partial birth” abortions and other such procedures. A total ban ignores problems such as ectopic, or tubal, pregnancies, wherein the fertilized egg can't survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding, if left untreated. The Church sees this as a natural occurrence that sometimes happens and doctors should follow the lead of nature in terminating the pregnancy.
A key to this debate is the “Hyde amendment”. The current official summary statement, introduced 1/24/23, of the bill is as follows; Prohibits the use of federal funds for any health benefits coverage that includes abortion. (Currently, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services, and plans receiving federal funds must keep them segregated from any funds for abortion services.)
Excludes from such prohibitions an abortion if: (1) the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest; or (2) the woman suffers from a physical disorder, injury, or illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, as certified by a physician.
The bill dates to 1976, Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois inserted a sentence into the funding bill for the Departments of Labor and of Health, Education, and Welfare, which funds Medicaid and a lot of other things. The text of his original abortion amendment was this: “None of the funds contained in this Act shall be used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.”
It essentially banned the use of federal funds for all but a small sliver of the abortions sought by people on Medicaid, who are all low-income. The original language has since been updated to include exceptions for rape and incest.
Subsequent court rulings pared back some of what the Hyde Amendment did, but its basic framework stuck. In fact, similar language has appeared in many different funding bills, which means federal funds can’t be used to subsidize abortions as part of foreign aid, for instance. They also can’t be used for abortions in health insurance for federal employees. However, the Hyde Amendment is that it isn’t permanent law. It applies only to the spending bill into which it’s inserted. This is why there is a recurring fight over this amendment with each Congress.
Joe Biden could be a key to end this bitter debate. Biden was first sworn in to the Senate in 1973, the same year the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. He’s a devout Catholic and he personally opposes abortion rights on religious grounds. During a 2012 vice presidential debate, he talked about his views.
“I accept my church’s position on abortion as a what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” he said. “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. I just refuse to impose that on others,” he said.
He added: “I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, women, that they can’t control their bodies. That’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that.”
Therefore, after years of supporting this amendment, if only on a private level, Joe Biden abandoned his long held support and said, “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s zip code”. Biden sought to explain why he flipped on this subject.
“I laid out a health care plan that’s going to provide federally funded health care for all women and women who now are denied even Medicare in their home states,” he said. “It became really clear to me that although the Hyde Amendment was designed to try to split the difference here, to make sure women still had access, you can’t have access if everyone’s covered by a federal policy. That’s why at the same time I announced that policy, I announced that I could no longer continue to abide by the Hyde Amendment. That’s the reason.”
Biden said he believes repealing the Hyde Amendment is the only way to promote an expansive health care plan funded by federal money that does not also curtail women’s access to abortions. He has offered another explanation for his reversal with the following; “For many years as a U.S. senator, I have supported the Hyde amendment as many, many others have because there was sufficient monies and circumstances where women were able to exercise that right, women of color, poor women, women were not able to have access, and it was not under attack … as it is now. But circumstances have changed”.
It seems that the only circumstance that has changed is his successful run for the Presidency. Therefore, it is time for the people, most of whom accept abortions with restrictions, to call our President to accountability. His stand should not be dependent on his political aspirations or affiliations, but what is best for the country. He is mixing politics with religious faith in a very dangerous way.