016 – barely three weeks in, and so much has happened. David Bowie and Alan Rickman have gone; President Obama gave his last State of The Union speech.
Ted Cruz cozied up to Duck Dynasty, while Chelsea Clinton, in speaking for her mother’s campaign, went negative against Bernie Sanders, ending the previously friendly tone. The GOP still isn’t sure what to do about Donald Trump, and those folks in Oregon may not have gotten the snacks they asked for, but they did receive a generous supply of lube, courtesy of Cards Against Humanity.
With so many things vying for our attention, it’s easy for things, even important things, to escape our notice – like Hillary Clinton’s campaign to remove the Hyde Amendment.
(It’s at this point that I’m going to throw out both a little history, as well as an apology for those that already know what the Hyde Amendment is – sorry for the boring backstory, but context is important, right?)
As most of us in this country are quite aware (regardless of personal feelings towards the subject), abortions in the United States are legal, as per 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision. Again, regardless of however one may feel about this, that is the law as it currently stands. In addition to the ruling, an additional legislative provision – the Hyde Amendment of 1976 – was added, barring the usage of federal funds for abortions, with certain provisional loopholes (rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother) noted. It’s here that I will confess that, until recently, my thoughts on the Hyde Amendment were slightly different, as I suspect many probably were and may still be. Allow me to explain, if you will: Personally, I have always been pro-choice, and a champion of such institutions such as Planned Parenthood. As such, I tended to look at the Hyde Amendment as something that, in the face of such stern opposition to all things abortion, and abortion-related, helped stave off opposing sentiment – because it clarified that, as no federal moneys could be used, the main argument of “I don’t want my tax dollars paying for that” was thereby negated.
And it’s there that I erred, and there that I failed to think all the way through:
No federal money used for abortions – this is so often presented in tandem with funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, that many of us lose sight of the *other* side of this complex coin. While no federal funds given to organizations or facilities that provide abortion or related services (such as Planned Parenthood) may be used, the Hyde Amendment also means that federal moneys given to individuals cannot be used to pay for such. Federal moneys…like Medicaid. So, essentially, the Hyde Amendment targets poorer women, and effectively ends any provision for abortion, by virtue of low income status.
I suspect that many of us have probably never thought of the Hyde Amendment, or the restriction of federal funding for abortion, in such terms. Our beliefs, our socioeconomic status – these, coupled with the slanted focus on funding as related to organizations, have largely blinded us to the fuller implications.
Speaking of beliefs – this one is possibly the most common argument used when discussing abortion. Most opponents of abortion state that their beliefs do not conscience abortion, and really, that’s fine. As individuals in a country of varying religions and beliefs, we are afforded that – the option to opt on some things, based on what we believe. But that’s as individuals, making whatever moral decisions we choose, based on whatever faith or belief we espouse. The government, on the other hand, cannot make such moral determinations, as such decisions are prejudicial with regards to specific faith or belief – this is spelled out in the First Amendment. This becomes even more apparent and more grossly hypocritical when viewed in larger context – the sub-textual argument posited is that abortion, though granted legal status, is clearly being equated as morally wrong , and the government is opting out, to to avoid angry taxpayers from having their money used against their beliefs. However, if that were truly the case (moral wrongs, and equitable application of belief), taxpayers should also be allowed to opt out of tax dollars being spent on other things that go against their beliefs…like war, as an example. That they cannot merely speaks further to the moral hypocrisy and religious undertone inherent in this unfair provision. Hindsight is always clearer, and the passage of time usually lends perspective. Clearly, the Hyde Amendment should have never been allowed to pass; that it was, and did, speaks volumes about the deeper inequalities in our nation. If we are to ever really progress as a country, perversions of law such as the Hyde Amendment need to go.
It’s 2016 – it’s time to put unfair and prejudicial laws like the Hyde Amendment where they belong: in the past.