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The Hyde Amendment Saved My Life

By Deanna Wallace

Originally published in the Independent Journal Review, on October 5, 2017.

Saturday marked the 41st anniversary of the passage of the Hyde Amendment, which codified our nation’s preference for childbirth over abortion when it comes to taxpayer dollars. That means that 41 years ago, Congressman Henry Hyde saved my life.

Recent research estimates that the Hyde Amendment has saved more than two million children since its passage in 1976, and it is very likely that I was one of them.

You see, when my birth mother found out she was pregnant with me, she was already a single teenaged mother to three kids under the age of 5 years old. Having a fourth child under these circumstances was certainly not ideal for her, and many activists fighting to get rid of Hyde would argue that her situation is exactly why Medicaid should pay for poor women’s abortions. But instead of offering to kill her unborn child, free of charge, our government sent my birth mother a message of hope by paying for my prenatal care, birth, and care as an infant.

Our worth in life is not determined by the economic circumstances at the time of our birth. Despite being born into poverty to a teenaged mother, and despite spending the first five years of my life in the Louisiana foster care system, my life story is still one of hope. My siblings and I were all adopted, and three of us were placed with the same amazing family. I grew up knowing without a doubt that I was loved, and that I could achieve whatever goal I put my mind to.

For me, that goal was becoming a pro-life attorney focused on ensuring other children got the same chances in life I did. I am proud of what I have accomplished, and the lives I hope I have played some small part in saving. But what if my birth mother had gotten a different message from the government when I was still in her womb?

Policy is not made in a vacuum, and the policy choices we make as a nation deliver a very important message about our values. The Hyde Amendment sends the positive message that one’s economic status does not determine one’s worth and dignity as a human being. If we were to abolish the Hyde Amendment, what message would we be sending to poor women — that their unborn children are a problem and abortion is a solution? That the government takes a utilitarian stance on whether the lives of their unborn children have value?

Our nation has sent a strong message through the Hyde Amendment over the past 41 years, and has enabled more than two million Americans to pursue our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today I applaud Congressman Henry Hyde, and urge lawmakers to continue to honor his legacy of promoting life and human dignity through the Hyde Amendment. Because being conceived into poverty should not be a government-funded death sentence.