The 2016 Democratic Party Platform calls for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Shortly after Secretary Hillary Clinton announced Senator Tim Kaine as her VP pick, he was asked about Hyde, and said he’d always supported it.
Should we worry?
First, some background.
The Hyde Amendment is a rider to the appropriations bill, named for former representative, then senator, Henry Hyde. It prevents federal healthcare funds from paying for an abortion unless the abortion is necessary because the person seeking it is pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy threatens the person’s life or health. (Find more on the history of Hyde here.)
The 2016 Democratic Party Platform includes the following unequivocal call to end Hyde:
Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice … We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.
This was and is great news. The right to access abortion, after all, is hardly meaningful if you cannot pay for the procedure.
The moment the pick was announced, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America immediately reminded Americans that the just-nominated Senator Kaine has 100% approval ratings on their issues. The convention kicked off, and we got excited.
Then, while that one guy was still wandering around the convention center popping balloons, there was Kaine, assuring Jake Tapper on CNN that he’d always supported Hyde. As in, he was not aligned with the platform or the presidential candidate whose ticket he’d just joined.
I heard the news, and adjusted the needle on my own personal outrage meter.
Reproductive justice advocates, while hoping that the Democratic Party had finally presented a united front on the question of Hyde, have been through this before.
Abortion rights regularly get thrown under the bus in the name of expedience. Activists who champion them have binders full of “one day it’ll be your turn but not now” vouchers they’d really like to cash in.
It is exceedingly fair to express frustration and disappointment, both over Kaine’s position and over how ill-prepared he or the party was for this question.
How did he not have a better answer about Hyde? The party itself was hyping their Hyde plank the week before the convention. This is a candidate who has, after all, earned top ratings from major groups and understands very clearly the distinction between what he might do as a private citizen living with his own set of religious strictures and what he should not do as a representative of the general public.
But what will happen?
Will Kaine’s support for Hyde mean anything?
Should Clinton/Kaine win, Virginia will be down a senator, and the state’s demonstrably pro-choice governor, Terry McAuliffe, will appoint Kaine’s replacement.
Now is the time for reproductive justice advocates to ensure Kaine’s replacement would repeal Hyde.
Let’s move forward with pragmatic suggestions and clear expectations. Let’s get some names on the short list.
Let’s keep the pressure on the party and campaign advisors to sway Kaine’s view. Supporting Hyde is not logically consistent with his values, after all, if he’s a champion of the poor and believes that his values should not be imposed on others.
This is already a year of firsts. Let’s log one more, and move the party forward once and for all to abolish the Hyde amendment.