Get ready to start paying for abortions with your tax-dollars, as the federal government is poised to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and fund abortions for the first time in nearly half a century.

Named for its original author, former-Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, the Hyde Amendment is the name given to a federal appropriations bill rider that bans federal dollars from being used to fund many abortions in the United States.  It is not a permanent fixture in law; rather, it must be renewed annually.  As bi-partisan legislation, it enjoys broad support and has been approved every year for 45 years.  During this period, every president – regardless of party affiliation – has supported Hyde.  It has served as a model for similar bans on abortion funding in other areas of federal spending.

In what is a shocking departure from this longstanding precedent, the Hyde Amendment was conspicuously absent from the annual appropriations package submitted by President Joe Biden and passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year.  It is currently pending in the Senate.  This action follows a 2020 change in Biden’s position on taxpayer funding for abortions.  After supporting Hyde during his decades-long tenure in the Senate, during last year’s presidential race, Biden’s campaign website stated, “Vice President Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment.”  Word became deed when his first budget proposal as the chief executive arrived to the House.

Historically, Hyde originated in the political and legal turbulence that followed Roe v. Wade.  After the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, the federal Medicaid program began paying for 300,000 abortions per year.   Three years later, when Congressman Hyde proposed his namesake amendment he found broad support for what was widely seen as a common-sense compromise.  In the years since, the Hyde Amendment’s language has varied slightly, as there have been changes to the exceptions to the funding ban in some cases. But the basic, bi-partisan commitment to the concept has endured.  All told, it is estimated that nearly 2.5 million children’s lives have been saved by Hyde.

The end of the Hyde Amendment is also expected to cause a shift in state-level policy.  According to the USCCB’s pro-life secretariat, “eliminating the Hyde Amendment would likely force every state to include elective abortions as part of their Medicaid benefits, or else be ejected from the federal Medicaid program. This would even require overriding some states’ constitutional provisions against abortion funding.”  While seventeen states currently pay for abortions through their own contributions to the state-implemented Medicaid program, South Dakota, like most states, does not.  According to a study from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate is four times higher for Medicaid-eligible women in states that pay for abortion than in states that don’t.

The rejection of Hyde also portends the end of other pro-life budget amendments modeled on it.  Recently the House Appropriations Committee began considering the first of their fiscal year 2022 funding bills.  Missing from these bills were several key pro-life provisions that have been there for decades: the Dornan Amendment, which bans taxpayer funding in the District of Columbia, the Helms Amendment, which bans abortion funding in foreign assistance spending, and another provision that excludes abortion coverage from federal employee health insurance.

It is indisputable that ending the Hyde Amendment will lead to more abortions.  It bears repeating how significant this is: abortion proponents not only wish for the legal freedom to kill children in utero, they want public coffers to pay for it.  But their arguments are empty.  Many suggest it’s “discriminatory” to deny free abortion coverage to Medicaid-eligible women.  To be clear, we have obligations to the poor; the Church’s social teaching beautifully articulates a “preferential option” for the poor.   Yet it is the height of injustice to respond to the poor’s cries for help with their human needs with free abortion.  This, truly, is the discrimination, to offer violence in response to a need for help and authentic love.

Even if Hyde and similar pro-life provisions are saved by the Senate filibuster’s 60-vote requirement, as seems likely this fiscal year, abortion advocates’ efforts have intensified and will undoubtedly continue into the future.  They have already made a significant advance in breaking the decades-old bi-partisan consensus behind Hyde.  Further pressure is coming.

What can we as Catholic citizens do?  To start, I encourage you to visit and read and sign the USCCB-backed petition in defense of Hyde.  In politics, speaking together as a group matters.  State Catholic conferences across the country are encouraging citizens to sign this petition.  This is one way Catholic citizens can join their voices to others to be heard.

Finally, but most importantly, please pray.  Ask for the Blessed Mother’s intercession.  Also on my heart is a desire to invoke the prayer of St. Teresa of Calcutta.  A tireless servant of the poor, she was a great advocate of the unborn.  In a 1994 legal brief to the Supreme Court pleading with it to reverse Roe v. Wade, she wrote, “I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition – very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight – that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”  May this beautiful truth be heard once more in the hearts of our fellow citizens!  Dear Mother of God, and Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us!