Ethics & Public Policy Center

Biden and Taxpayer-Funded Abortion

Published in National Review Online on July 31, 2020

As John McCormack noted earlier this morning, several House Democrats are pushing a bill creatively titled the “Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020,” which they describe as the first legislative effort to repeal the Helms amendment.

Since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, Congress has routinely attached the Helms amendment to fiscal bills to prohibit U.S. foreign aid from directly funding “performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions,” a policy that the Democratic sponsors of the new legislation decry as “deeply rooted in racism.”

The Helms amendment goes hand in hand with the Mexico City policy, which every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan has enacted to prevent non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion overseas from receiving U.S. funding. Under President Trump, that policy was expanded to apply to all foreign-health assistance provided by government agencies, including the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and the Defense Department.

According to the Washington Post, if elected, Joe Biden will follow the example of his Democratic predecessors in reversing the policy as soon as he takes office. “Biden will use executive action on his first day in office to withdraw the Mexico City ‘global gag rule,’” his spokesperson said, using the parlance of those who promote unlimited legal abortion.

Meanwhile, in his “unity taskforce” recommendations developed in cooperation with Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden asserts, “Democrats believe that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion.”

The vague wording leaves room for Biden to claim he’s telling the truth, but public opinion on abortion is actually much more complex than he makes it sound. A Gallup poll from last summer, for instance, found that less than 40 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, it’s certainly not the case that Democrats favor taxpayer-funded abortion, let alone overseas. According to a 2018 survey from Marist/Knights of Columbus, Democrats were almost evenly split on whether taxpayer dollars should fund abortion in the U.S., with about 45 percent saying they oppose the practice. In 2017, the same survey found that an overwhelming majority of Democrats (70 percent) opposed taxpayer-funded abortion around the globe.

On this element of abortion policy, as with abortion policy more generally, Biden is out of step not only with the average American, but with voters in his own party.

Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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