The XX Factor

Make the Hyde Amendment Permanent Already

Slate ’s health care reform guru Tim Noah takes an interesting look at Bart Stupak’s opposition to the Senate health care bill on the grounds that (Stupak claims) it funds abortion. Noah drills down and suspects that, among other issues, what bothers the pro-life House Democrats is that the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions, is not a law onto its own but “merely a rider routinely attached to annual appropriations bills.”

The left is complaining that Stupak and the Catholic bishops are holding up health care over abortion. But if health care reform is that important, why not offer Stupak this concession? Permanently codify the Hyde Amendment. It would probably be, as Tim has mentioned to me, impossible to get such a provision into the health care bill under reconciliation, as reconciliation is supposed to be budget-related, and this doesn’t fall under budgeting. But is there anything stopping standalone legislation that would permanently bar the federal funding of abortion?

More than half of Americans identify as pro-life, a number that has steadily increased since 1995 . Those who are both pro-reform and pro-choice are not winning pro-lifers over on the health-care reform front by leaving this ambiguity in place. Plus, such a move would put the ball in Stupak’s court. But if pro-choicers aren’t willing to make this concession, then it’s not just the pro-lifers who care about abortion more than they care about health care reform.

Photograph of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) by Tim Sloan/AFP.