Fort Report: Care for Her
We hear a lot about finding unity these days, especially within government given all the recent trauma.
For decades in Congress, one source of quiet but ongoing unity has been around something called the Hyde Amendment. Named for the late Congressman from Illinois, Henry Hyde, the Hyde Amendment is a longstanding agreement to disallow taxpayer dollars for abortion. I was privileged to serve briefly with Congressman Hyde, a man of great generosity and kindness.
Born of bipartisan agreement in 1976, “Hyde protections” have been attached to federal spending bills ever since. Little in Washington has been this stable. As recently as June 2019, Vice President Joe Biden supported the Hyde Amendment and acknowledged that it works harmoniously with federal funding for women’s healthcare. It now appears that President Joe Biden is changing direction, severing this important bond.
While the country may be divided on the question of abortion rights, it is interesting to note that a significant majority of Americans agree that the government should not pay for it. Across multiple Administrations, Democrats and Republicans, Hyde language has been a through-line that has helped hold our nation together, even as we remain divided by so much else. Given its majority support among Americans, the dire prospect of losing this protection compels us to fight to save Hyde while advancing a new vision that could invite even wider consensus across our country.
That consensus rests on one question: Are we big enough and generous enough to assure that a woman and her unborn child will never be abandoned? A new paradigm would invite us to see the fear as our fear, the sorrow as our sorrow, the pregnancy as our chance. Written by the early feminist author Mattie Brinkerhoff in 1869, the following words have always haunted me: “When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society––so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.”
Brinkerhoff goes on to ask: “But the question now seems to be, how shall we prevent this destruction of life and health?” Soon, I will be introducing legislation entitled Care for Her. It lets a woman know that we, as a community of care, will be there through the miraculous journey of giving life. The bill would build on existing communities of support to ensure that a pregnant woman knows what is available to her, and fill in gaps with education, job training, and childcare through local and state capacities. As we have learned from Head Start, children do better when moms are part of community.
In the almost 50 years since Roe v. Wade, women in America have chosen to have over 62 million abortions. Abortion remains as high as 50% of pregnancies in some communities. I believe that women deserve better.
Care for Her is a new way to give life, to give hope, to give unity.