U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued the following statement today on the 30th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Harris v. McRae, upholding the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, prohibiting federal funding of abortions in the Medicaid program:
This landmark Supreme Court decision 30 years ago made it possible for Congress, by annual enactment of the Hyde Amendment, to protect American taxpayers from being forced to fund the destruction of innocent preborn human beings.
In our recent debate over healthcare reform, we often heard that because the Hyde Amendment is already "settled law," there was no need for specific provisions to ban taxpayer subsidies for abortion through the health insurance exchanges or other features of the legislation. That argument, of course, was wrong. The Hyde Amendment affects the appropriations that fund the Departments of Labor and of Health and Human Services. The vast healthcare bureaucracy created by this new legislation will exist outside of those departments. Time will tell whether those who argued so strongly that the Hyde Amendment is settled and "good law" will nonetheless challenge it again in the future.
Let's be honest about a fundamental point: change in our healthcare system provides another opportunity for abortion advocates to claim that abortion is healthcare that must be funded by the taxpayers. That claim must be resisted and defeated, just as it was resisted and defeated in Harris v Macrae.
Were he still among us, our dear and esteemed colleague Henry Hyde would have reminded our colleagues of this, with an eloquence we cannot muster. The amendment bearing his name, after all, did not become law by accident; nor did it survive other than by the heroic efforts of Henry Hyde and a small cadre of pro-life attorneys who persuaded the Department of Justice to make the very arguments critical to successfully defending the Hyde Amendment in court.
Henry Hyde was vilified at the time for his amendment, and for his unwillingness to yield or compromise on its principles. Investigators for the plaintiffs in Harris followed the Congressman to Mass, and then argued to the federal district court in Brooklyn that his amendment was motivated by his religion. What a scandal -- that a Congressman's faith would motivate his work.
The victories in Harris and Williams remain the most significant pro-life legal victories of our lifetimes. But, until the Hyde Amendment becomes a part of the U.S. Code rather than an annual appropriations amendment, so that it covers all government programs and expenditures, we must continue to make the same vigilant effort that made the victories in those cases possible.
Many of the courageous warriors who first defended those principles three decades ago have passed from our midst: my friends Henry Hyde and Jesse Helms, attorneys Dennis Horan and Tom Marzen, and Dr. Jasper Williams. Thankfully, some of the young lawyers who worked with them remain active pro-life leaders today. Meanwhile, the ranks of young lawyers and students eager to follow in the footsteps of these legal pioneers continues to grow. That is what trailblazers do, they lead the way so that others may follow and continue the fight. May their efforts be blessed, and this nation move swiftly to the day when the lives of the unborn receive full legal protection.