WASHINGTON - In 1976, an Illinois lawmaker, Republican Henry Hyde, attached an amendment to an appropriations bill banning the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.
The Hyde Amendment was implemented in 1977 and became part of most must-pass bills ever since. It’s the lasting legacy of the west suburban lawmaker.
He was able to add the anti-abortion amendment to an appropriations bill in his first term. Hyde, a Catholic, went on to became one of the most powerful abortion foes in Congress.
For decades, until Friday, no president dared strip the Hyde Amendment out of his proposed budget.
President Joe Biden, making good on a June 2019 campaign pledge, excluded Hyde Amendment language in the fiscal 2022 budget request he sent to Congress.
The move of the Catholic president who supports abortion rights met with mixed reviews, all depending where you stand on the always contentious, deeply divisive issue.
Catholics for Choice said in a statement, Biden, “our nation’s first pro-choice Catholic president, today demonstrated his moral leadership and commitment to protecting abortion access for all Americans in omitting the infamous Hyde Amendment from his budget proposal.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement, “We urge our congressional allies to be fearless in fighting to preserve the common-ground Hyde principle and to reject any budget that omits vital pro-life protections.”
Biden’s budget – as with every president – is a statement of values as expressed in fiscal priorities and appropriations.
The Hyde Amendment mostly hurts low-income women who depend on Medicaid, a state/federal program, to pay for their health care. The early versions of the Hyde Amendment forbid federal funds for abortion, except to save the life of the mother. Rape and incest were added as exceptions in 1993.
Who is Henry Hyde?
* Hyde was born in Chicago on April 18, 1924, and died at 83 on Nov. 29, 2007.
* He was raised in Rogers Park.
* Hyde attended the now-closed St. George’s High School in Evanston.
* He served in the Navy. Has an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and is a graduate of Loyola University Law School.
* Hyde was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1967 to 1974.
* He was first elected to Congress in 1974, a year after the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
* As House Judiciary Committee chairman, Hyde presided over the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. During the impeachment proceedings, Hyde was knocked off his moral pedestal when he was forced to admit his own affair during the 1960s while a lawmaker in Springfield.
* Hyde was also the rare conservative Republican who was willing to buck his party and challenge the NRA on gun control.
Rep. Darin LaHood, an Illinois Republican, in objecting to Biden’s proposed budget for many reasons said in a Tweet one of them is it “guts the Hyde Amendment.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, noted that Biden kept in his budget Helms Amendment language, which bans any international aid money being used for abortions.
Schakowsky said in her Tweet she was “thrilled” Biden’s budget does not include the Hyde Amendment. But the Helms Amendment also needs to go, she said.
Bottom line: In the case of the Hyde Amendment, it is highly likely to be resurrected in the spending plan Congress eventually passes. While Democrats hold the House, they only have a 50-50 majority in the Senate – and all 50 Senate Democrats may not want to see the Hyde Amendment disappear.