Henry Hyde is dead. We have a Democratic Congress that should continue at least through the next election cycle. And, with massive discontent with the current Republican President and the party generally, we have a strong likelihood that a Democrat will win the Presidency. But, will any of the Democratic Presidential candidates end the Hyde Amendment?
In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Hyde Amendment is a yearly restriction that prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from paying for abortions except in certain limited circumstances (varying over the years to include rape, incest, and/or a threat to the life or physical health of the woman). Some states, via legislative enactment or state court order, require state funds to pay for poor women’s abortions, but most do not. So, most poor women throughout the country are left to scrape together money for an abortion out of funds that would otherwise go to food, clothing, shelter, or caring for their children or, if they can’t get the money, continue their pregnancy against their wishes.
The three remaining viable candidates for the Democratic nomination have all stated their opposition to the Hyde Amendment. Their statements on the issue in response to a reproductive health questionnaire are below. But, I would like to see this issue be more prominent in the debates and in their speeches. If they care about poverty and if they care about women’s health, they have to care about ending the Hyde Amendment and pledging to make ending it a priority upon becoming President. Especially given the particular party alignment we could have in 2009 — a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, something that has only held true for 6 of Hyde’s 30+ years — it would be a massive wasted opportunity if Hyde continues.
Here are the candidates’ statements responding to this question: “[Do you] support the Hyde amendment? Under what circumstances [do you] believe that Medicaid should cover abortions (all pregnancies, life- or health- threatening pregnancies, pregnancies that are a result of rape or incest, extreme fetal malformation)?”
Clinton: No. Senator Clinton does not support the Hyde amendment. She believes low-income women should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.
Edwards: I oppose any effort to restrict abortion as an option for women who depend on the government for their health care needs. I support public funding of abortion services for low-income women. While in the Senate, I voted against restrictions on funding for abortions for federal employees and District of Columbia residents.
Obama: Obama does not support the Hyde amendment. He believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman’s decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy and selectively withhold benefits because she seeks to exercise her right of reproductive choice in a manner the government disfavors.
– David S. Cohen