Two House Democrats voted with their party on Thursday to pass legislation that would eliminate the Hyde Amendment and force American taxpayers to fund elective abortions for Medicaid recipients, despite previously opposing the practice.
Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio were among 219 House Democrats that threw their support behind H.R.4502, an appropriations bill that would provide funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The measure omitted mention of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for nearly all abortions through government programs. A “motion to recommit” offered by Republicans to send the bill back to committee was rejected by a 217-208 party-line vote.
The vote to affirm the bill by the two representatives, however, runs contrary to their previous opposition to using federal tax dollars to fund abortions nationwide. In 2009, Kaptur co-sponsored and voted in favor of an amendment to prohibit federally-funded abortions, stating that the Hyde Amendment was a “broad consensus” agreed upon by the American public.
“This amendment reaffirms longstanding, existing law, and nothing more,” she said. “It represents the broad consensus of the American people after 32 years of consideration on this issue.”
Through the years, Kaptur’s views on abortion shifted left, with the congresswoman coming out in full support of eliminating the Hyde Amendment following the conclusion of the 2020 elections.
“That is authorizing on an appropriations bill and I do not want it on our bill,” Kaptur said in reference to the Hyde Amendment. “We’ll see where we are after the new Congress is sworn in and see what the will of the caucus is and I’ll carry that forward. …I’m not going to create needless controversy but I want clean bills.”
Cuellar, meanwhile, has long professed himself to be a pro-life Democrat. In 2017, Cuellar was among three House Democrats that voted to permanently prohibit federal taxpayer money from funding abortions through government entities. Moreover, the Texas congressman was among four Democrats to support a 2015 measure that sought to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Despite supporting an amendment to add Hyde language to the HHS spending measure in committee, Cuellar ultimately caved and voted for the bill once it reached the House floor.
Recent polling has indicated that a majority of Americans oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. According to a survey conducted by Marist and Knights of Columbus, “58% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to support abortion,” which also “included a majority of Independents (65%) and 31% of Democrats.”