How Ossoff and Warnock Victories Could Enable Taxpayer-Funding of Abortion

Policy

Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock appear together at a campaign rally ahead of Senate runoff elections, Augusta, Ga., January 4, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

For over four decades, the Hyde amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding of elective abortion, has been attached to every relevant spending bill. The measure is estimated to have saved 60,000 human lives each year from abortion (because when you subsidize something you get more of it). But the top Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Representative Rosa DeLauro, is vowing that she’s going to kill the Hyde amendment in 2021. Will she succeed? It’s not clear, as I reported on the homepage last week.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi says she supports DeLauro’s efforts, but former congressman Dan Lipinski — a sincere pro-life Democrat whose congressional career ended on Sunday because of his commitment to the pro-life cause — thinks the House Democratic majority is small enough that it is unlikely a bill killing the Hyde amendment will even make it to the House floor. That’s just one (informed) opinion, of course, and unlikely doesn’t mean certain.

If taxpayer-funding of abortion makes it through the House, can it get through the Senate next year? First, Democrats would need to win both Senate races in Georgia on Tuesday. With a 50–50 Senate and Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker, a lot would still depend on West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who says he strongly opposes getting rid of the Hyde amendment and has sworn he’ll keep the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for most legislation.

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Would Manchin stand firm? Would that be enough to stop Congress from enacting taxpayer-funding of abortion? It’s, again, not clear. The Senate can pass some legislative measures by a simple majority under the complex budget reconciliation rules. Manchin has not commented on whether he’d oppose a “public option” that would fund abortion-on-demand with taxpayer money.

The big concern for pro-lifers is that they think they may have seen this movie before: Back in 2009 and 2010 most pro-life congressional Democrats, including then-senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska and then-congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan, buckled under pressure when they agreed to pass Obamacare, which provided federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover elective abortion. Whether Manchin will find himself under similar pressure this year could depend on the outcome of tomorrow’s Senate races in Georgia.

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