Kimberly Smith is the Republican Outreach Manager with Republicans for Planned Parenthood. She is a lifelong Republican who also steadfastly supports women's health and rights.
After weeks of fighting over anti-abortion language in the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, the Senate has passed the bill and opened much-needed lines of support for survivors of human trafficking. This otherwise bipartisan bill was stalled because anti-women’s health politicians snuck in an unprecedented extension of the Hyde Amendment, which is a decades-old ban on federal funding for abortion for low-income women (except in very narrow circumstances). The dangerous extension would have set a horrible precedent by blocking survivors from using private dollars raised for them to access safe, legal abortion.
Fortunately, with pressure from pro-women’s health senators and nearly 40,000 Planned Parenthood supporters, the private funding restriction was removed! But all the buzz around the Hyde Amendment got me to thinking about Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican who got the abortion ban on the books in 1976. I couldn’t help but wonder who this Rep. Hyde was, and why today’s anti-women’s health politicians are trying to add his amendment to every bill they possibly can. That’s why, just like Politico’s David Rogers, I question: “Would Henry Hyde have agreed with today’s Republicans on abortion?”
In Hyde’s day, abortion restrictions didn’t come into the picture with many bills, or even with legislation that had similar funding to the human trafficking bill. For example, when Congress was crafting the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, Hyde did not try to apply his amendment to the legislation. To quote Politico:
“Without doubt, Hyde was a fierce champion for the anti-abortion movement. But he tended to choose big targets like Medicaid or foreign aid appropriations. He never pressed the point on the crime victims’ bill... The very opposite seems the case in the Senate today.”
Now, in 2015, we have finally passed a bill that will help trafficking victims access a variety of important services. I wish we could call this a full victory, but the truth isn’t quite so cut and dried. Yes, some of our true champions in the Senate were able to hold the line against expanded abortion restrictions. But make no mistake: This is not a perfect bill. It maintains Hyde’s ban on federal funding of abortion, even for human trafficking survivors.
Something else has become apparent since Hyde’s day, and since anti-women’s health politicians have been trying to restrict abortion left and right: Polls show that Americans (including Republicans) support a woman's right to access abortion AND believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. What’s more, a strong majority of voters say that banning abortion at 20 weeks (just one of the anti-abortion bills in Congress right now) is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on — and that includes 62 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of Independents.
I'm glad we stopped a dangerous expansion of the Hyde Amendment — but it's clear we can't rest while anti-women's health opponents control Congress. In the past few months, anti-abortion politicians have been sneaking abortion restrictions into just about any legislation that crosses their desks. We have to remain vigilant and keep an eye on these women’s health opponents.
It’s time for the Republican Party leaders to return to our party's core values of personal responsibility and individual liberty — and leave personal medical decisions to a woman, her family and her faith. But don’t take it from me. Take it from CNN:
"After three months at the helm of both houses of Congress, the Republican leadership hasn't won over many outside its own party."
That quote is in context of a CNN poll finding that 67 percent of American voters disapprove of what the Republicans in Congress have done this year.
It is more important than ever for Republicans to speak up for women’s health. If you’re as passionate as I am about reproductive rights, then follow #HydeAndSneak on Twitter to get involved with Republicans for Planned Parenthood! Let our leaders know that they must protect the individual rights of women and their families.