DNC and the Hyde Amendment

At the Supreme Court in 2014. (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
At the Supreme Court in 2014. (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

First-time call to make taxpayers fund abortions leads nation and democracy in wrong direction.

A well-publicized part of the Democratic Party platform draft is its opposition to the death penalty, which contradicts the views of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. But there is a less noticed change that, if accepted by convention delegates, would be a far more radical departure. For the first time, the Democratic Party would call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits direct use of federal funds for abortion.

The Hyde Amendment was passed by Congress in 1976 and signed into law by President Carter in 1977. While some in the party’s more liberal factions disagreed with this, the Democratic Party did not officially contest the Hyde Amendment. After a decade dominated by Republicans, Democrats in the 1990s seemed to believe they should de-escalate some of the more controversial aspects of their abortion language. The 1992 platform called for making abortion “less necessary.” The platform in 1996 lauded the drop in the abortion rate, and called for all Americans to embrace “personal responsibility” to “reduce unintended pregnancies.”In 2000, the Democratic Party spoke of the “individual conscience of each American” on the issue of abortion, and welcomed Democrats of diverse views on the topic to “participate at every level of our party.”

President Obama ran in 2008 promising to “turn the page” on the culture wars, and he delivered a speech at the University of Notre Dame calling for common ground on abortion in his first five months in office. In 2010, President Obama refused to call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and assured pro-life Democrats that the law would not use federal funds for abortion. But years of conflict have ensued between the Department of Health and Human Services and the consciences of conscientious objectors to abortion — including nuns — from paying for what they believe to be life-ending contraceptive drugs and devices.

Even so, for the past 25 years, the Democratic Party, at least rhetorically, acknowledged that compelling taxpayers to fund abortions was a step too far in the culture wars. If the call to repeal the Hyde Amendment remains in the Democratic platform, that era is officially over. A party that calls for government funding of abortion does not merely disagree with pro-life Americans, but wants to implicate them through their government of supporting what they believe is a moral evil.

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Russell Moore and Michael Wear

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