For the first time in decades, the House of Representatives’ appropriations committee passed a spending bill that doesn’t include the Hyde Amendment — which legally prohibits any federal funds from being used for abortion services. The argument in favor of this provision, or at least the argument that Democrats have historically agreed to swallow in the name of bipartisanship, is that taxpayers should not be compelled to fund something they are morally opposed to. According to them, the Hyde Amendment isn’t supposed to be about preventing abortions, which were deemed a constitutional right by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade; it’s supposed to be about protecting taxpayers.
We all know that Hyde is a de facto abortion restriction, which is part of why the left has fought to eradicate it. Those in favor of Hyde are just supposed to pretend not to know this. However, it appears the right is once again showing its hand.
As the Hyde-free spending bill passed in the House, anti-abortion activists and GOP politicians began sharing a graphic stating that the Hyde Amendment has saved nearly 2.5 million American lives along with the hashtag #HydeSavesLives. First of all, there seems to be no reliable data backing up this statistic. Second, one thing I would like to make extremely clear is that when they say that Hyde has saved 2.5 million lives, what they mean is that the Hyde Amendment has prevented 2.5 million pregnant people from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion.
Activists and progressives have long argued that Hyde is a discriminatory law that unfairly impacts low-income and especially Black and brown people who cannot afford an abortion without financial assistance. If all people are supposed to be legally entitled to get an abortion if they want in the United States, then a legal provision that not just makes that harder but whose very aim is to make that harder would seem unconstitutional.
Along with the graphic and the #HydeSavesLives hashtag, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar tweeted, “For more than 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has ensured that American tax dollars are not used to fund abortions, resulting in nearly 2.5 million lives saved. This year, Democrats have stripped this protection from the appropriations bill.” While the “protection” ensured by Hyde is supposed to be for the taxpayers, this tweet seems to imply that the “protection” was really for the fetus all along. The first thing that comes to mind when reading this tweet is the Mean Girls meme of Regina George saying, “So you agree? You think the Hyde Amendment is intended to block people from their constitutional right to an abortion.”
South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, after also sharing the hashtag on Twitter, said that the phrase “all men are created equal” includes “preborn lives” as well. Speaking of dubious facts, it’s fairly common knowledge that Thomas Jefferson, the slave owner, was referring to white men specifically when he wrote that phrase. He wasn’t thinking about women or Black people at all, much less whatever a “preborn” life is.
When they say 2.5 million American lives saved, anti-choice advocates and lawmakers want you to think of fetuses as an oppressed class of people, using a familiar right-wing rhetorical trick of co-opting the language of victimhood. They do not want you to think of the 2.5 million people who were forced to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth against their will. The 2.5 million lives they’re referring to are certainly not the lives of the people who didn’t get to choose their own future because of this law.
As long as you’re counting the number of thwarted abortions as an accomplishment of Hyde or arguing the morality of abortion as a reason to keep it, what you’re arguing for is a federal restriction on abortion which is, at least for the time being, still illegal. You are, in fact, making the left’s argument for them. Again.