Senator Jekyll and President Hyde

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on the COVID-19 pandemic, in St Ives, Cornwall on June 10, 2021, ahead of the three-day G7 summit being held from 11-13 June.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech on the COVID-19 pandemic, in St Ives, Cornwall on June 10, 2021, ahead of the three-day G7 summit being held from 11-13 June. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty)

Now that President Joe Biden has submitted his 2022 budget to Congress without the inclusion of Hyde Amendment language that sharply restricts federal taxpayers’ funding of abortion, his pro-abortion presidential credentials are established beyond any dispute. 

This means that all Catholics are left to hope for, in terms of any faint residual fidelity to Church teachings on abortion Biden may have, is the possibility that he might avoid pressuring the trio of Catholic Democratic U.S. senators who still support the amendment to endorse his own egregious failure to respect religious freedom and pro-life Americans.

If Biden does back away from the issue and doesn’t twist the arms of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, the Hyde Amendment language will likely be reinstated when the federal budget passes through the Senate, as noted in our article about this matter.

To put matters more colorfully, is there any chance that Biden might revert partway back to his earlier, more principled “Senator Jekyll” position of supporting this congressional amendment that protects pro-life Americans from being forced to participate in the funding of abortion? Or has he permanently transformed into “President Hyde,” with a political persona that is unalterably committed to unqualified support for the profound evil of legal abortion?

During his 36 years of service as a U.S. senator, Biden was never anything near a pro-life stalwart. Indeed, like the Democratic Party as a whole, over the course of his long political career, Biden has become steadily more accommodating of pro-abortion extremism, despite continuing claims that he remains “personally opposed” to abortion. But he did at least retain his stated support for the Hyde Amendment until he left the Senate in 2008, in keeping with a pledge in a 1994 letter to constituents that “I will continue to abide by the same principle that has guided me through my 21 years in the Senate: Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.” In fact, he maintained this position afterward throughout his eight years as vice president during Barack Obama’s presidency.

Unfortunately for the lives of unborn babies, Biden’s long-standing commitment to the principle that those who oppose abortion shouldn’t be forced to fund the life-destroying procedure was discarded — without any apparent regret — on the presidential campaign trail in June 2019, as soon as it became evident that a refusal to jettison his support for the amendment could cost him the Democratic nomination. 

Rather than explain how this flagrantly hypocritical flip-flop could be squared with his alleged belief that “abortion is always wrong,” he resorted instead to the abortion lobby’s cynical talking point that restrictions on tax-funded abortions discriminate against economically disadvantaged minority women. It’s cynical because these are the very women who are already disproportionately targeted by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The rate of abortion for African American women, for example, is four times higher than for white women, according to Centers for Disease Control data. Biden also cannot justify his abandonment of principle on the grounds that the Hyde Amendment has made little difference in terms of the incidence of abortions. According to an analysis by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, the amendment saves the lives of more than 60,000 unborn babies each year, and its effectiveness in reducing abortions has been confirmed by more than 20 peer-reviewed academic studies. Abortion activists don’t dispute the validity of such assessments either; a 2009 study by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute found that it reduces the number of abortions among Medicaid recipients by 25%. 

The intensity of the current attacks on the Hyde Amendment by the abortion lobby is further evidence of its effectiveness: If it didn’t reduce abortions, thereby reducing the abortion industry’s cash flow alongside of saving unborn babies’ lives, abortion activists would have no reason to oppose retention of the amendment so vociferously.

Another point to bear in mind is that the current Catholic occupant of the Oval Office is the first president since 1993 to deliver a proposed budget to Congress that didn’t include Hyde Amendment language. Despite being almost totally aligned with pro-abortion advocacy throughout his time in office, even President Obama never tried to do the same — despite the fact that, unlike Biden, Obama was not constrained by claims that he was “personally opposed” to abortion on the grounds of his religious faith. 

Of course, it has now become obvious that Biden does not intend to allow his Catholic faith to inhibit him from directing his administration to promote abortion and other agendas that contradict Catholic beliefs; at the start of June, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights released a list documenting 32 actions since January that have significantly departed from Church teachings. In light of all of this, what reasons are there to think Biden might not aggressively push in the Senate for the eradication of the Hyde Amendment and that he might instead be content to see it survive? 

Such hopes rest partly on the fact that he has avoided using the word “abortion” since his election, suggesting some hesitation on his part about seeming to be personally too wholeheartedly aboard the abortion-rights bandwagon. There’s also the fact that he has so much personal experience of how the Senate operates and might be disinclined because of that experience from trying to strong-arm Manchin, Kaine and Casey into closer alignment with the Democratic Party’s pro-abortion orthodoxy. And maybe he has even been paying a little bit of attention to the multitude of comments by prominent Church leaders in the U.S. calling him to account over his continued reception of Communion despite his frequent political breaches of fundamental Catholic moral teachings. 

Admittedly, this doesn’t provide a lot of hope for a covert reemergence of Biden’s former “Senator Jekyll” persona, with respect to acknowledging the principle that Americans who oppose abortions “should not be compelled to pay for them,” as he said himself back in 1994. Still, any hope is better than none, given that “President Hyde” has abandoned any pretense for balance when it comes to protecting the unborn, the most vulnerable among us. Let us pray for the president and continue to press him with the truth.