Statement of Clarke D. Forsythe, J.D., M.A. Senior Counsel, Americans United for Life to the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the Committee on Appropriations
Chairman Aderholt, Ranking Member DeLauro, and Members of the Committee:
I’m Clarke Forsythe, and I serve as Senior Counsel at Americans United for Life.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of pro-life appropriations riders, including the Hyde Amendment, Title X, and the Weldon Amendment.
I urge the Subcommittee to keep these riders for three main reasons. Abortion funding aggravates the risk of coerced abortion and increases the pressure to abort that women may already feel. Given massive federal deficits, it makes no sense to use tax dollars to pay for elective abortions when private funding is readily available. And tax-funded abortion violates the conscience of millions of American taxpayers as a bipartisan majority of members have recognized since 1976. The 2018 appropriation package riders should be preserved.
Numerous studies illustrate that coercion or pressure on women to abort play a role in most abortions. A 2004 study found 64% of women felt “pressured by others” to have the abortion.
Coercion can take many forms, from intimate partner violence, to subtle pressure, to paying for the woman’s abortion. An early abortion-rights advocate, Daniel Callahan recognized that legal abortion has given men more “choice” because “[t]hey now have a potent new weapon in the old business of manipulating and abandoning women.”
Abortion increases the risk of intimate partner violence. The prevalence of intimate partner violence is nearly three times greater for women seeking abortion than for women continuing a pregnancy.
Employers may also pressure women to abort. This problem became so obvious that Congress enacted the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act shortly after the Roe decision.
Trafficked women are also at significant risk of coerced abortion. A 2014 study found that 66 sex trafficked victims had a total of 114 abortions. The victims ”reported that they often did not freely choose the abortions they had while trafficked.”
Coerced abortion has become such a widespread phenomenon since the Roe decision that at least 20 states have enacted some form of law to protect women from coerced abortion.
Public funding aggravates the pressure women feel to abort by weighting the financial scale in favor of abortion and eliminating a reason they may have not to abort.
Second, given the massive federal deficits, it makes NO sense for Congress to fund abortion with tax dollars when more than enough private funding for abortion exists through numerous funders.
Third, funding restrictions are an important safeguard for taxpayers’ conscience rights. The most prominent abortion funding restriction is, of course, the Hyde Amendment.
Although Americans hold different views on abortion, since 2008, polling data has shown a consistent consensus of Americans supporting restrictions on abortions, including public funding restrictions. In the 2023 Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, 60% of Americans said they opposed taxpayer funding of abortion.
That bipartisan majority of Members that has supported abortion funding restrictions for 46 years has understood that funding restrictions are critical to support for social welfare appropriations. Instead of becoming embroiled in the abortion debate for every social welfare program, Members have determined to restrict the scope of appropriations, thus facilitating the passage of important social welfare legislation that won’t also fund abortion.
Pro-life riders also protect the conscience rights of medical professionals. The Weldon Amendment is an anti-discrimination provision that defends the conscientious objections of healthcare professionals, institutions, and insurance plans that refuse to “provide, pay for….or refer for abortions.”
These appropriation riders are essential to protect conscience.
I urge the Subcommittee to protect women from coercion and safeguard the conscientious objections of taxpayers and of medical professionals.