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Any class on 20th century history worth its salt
is sure to spend some significant time covering the Second World War. World War
II is such a defining moment in world history that for the past 60 years we
have been referring to the time period following it as the “post war period”,
an event so momentous that it defined three generations. For all of the
distinguishing factors that set World War II apart from other horrific globe
spanning conflicts, perhaps its most distinctive characteristic was the
practice of total war—the unmitigated prosecution of a war using all resources
possible, with little to no concern for collateral damage. While World War II
is now far in the past, total war remains with us and increasingly appears to
characterize our present culture war.

The transition of our domestic feuds over issues
like religious freedom and abortion from a fight in which we argue fiercely
with the other side, then often come to a compromise, has ended. Today we would
rather rhetorically burn down our opponent’s city and salt the earth than come
to any kind of agreement with which both sides could live. This sad fact brings
us to a relic of an older and possibly more civilized age: the Hyde Amendment.

Enacted in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has long
represented a simple and elegant solution to resolving some of the tensions
surrounding abortion in our culture. It ensures that American federal taxpayer
dollars do not fund optional, elective, non-medically necessary abortions. Hyde
would seem like a perfectly laudable compromise in light of the fact that even
today, nearly 50 years since Roe v. Wade created a right to abortion, a
majority of Americans believe Roe should be reversed or significantly modified.
Yet, as with many of our other societal compromises, so-called progressives have
made their intention clear. They seek not goodwill and compromise with their
political opponents, but the destruction of nuance and moderation in public
life. In this case, that means the complete repeal of the Hyde Amendment and a
mandate to spend federal taxpayer dollars to fund optional procedures that end
human life.

Name a Democrat running for president and odds
are they have made their goal of repealing the Hyde Amendment known. From
Senator Kamala Harris to Mayor Pete, they view public
funding of optional abortions as a vital public good. Even former Vice
President Joe Biden has rejected the Hyde Amendment though he has supported it
his entire career. In a puzzling flip flop that would make John Kerry sweat,
Biden evidently saw supporting the Hyde amendment as a grave liability in the
Democratic primary. It’s important to note that the Hyde Amendment does nothing
to restrict the lawfulness of abortion. Hyde simply recognizes that, in light
of the opposition of nearly half the nation to abortion in one form or another,
it would be imprudent for the federal government to pay for abortion. Why are Democrats
no longer willing to endorse such a modest, consensus compromise?

So many on the political left have positioned
themselves as abortion “maximalists,”—as completely unwilling to engage the
issue of abortion unless it means the total victory of their viewpoint.
Abortion has transitioned from a Democratic ideal of safe, legal, and rare, to being
an unquestionable public good with no acknowledged downsides, risks, or ethical
issues. Abortion is seen as not simply a last resort in desperate situations, but
rather it is now often promoted as preferable to childbirth. Opposition to Hyde
and increasing demands for optional abortions to be funded by federal taxpayer
dollars illustrates this increasing extremism. It’s no longer good enough for
abortion to be lawful and available on demand for almost any reason—abortions
must now be federally funded by tens of millions of American taxpayers who
sincerely disagree with the practice on scientific, medical, moral, or ethical

The Hyde Amendment was the first significant
victory for the pro-life movement following the devastating loss in Roe v.
in 1973. In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of
the Hyde Amendment in Harris v. McRae, producing a salient and much
needed win for the pro-life legal movement. It has also been documented
that the Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million
unborn lives
and in turn reduced abortion rates around the country.
Hyde accomplished these impressive achievements without restricting the “right”
to abortion that many hold dear.

In committing to prosecute what has become a
total war on their neighbors in the interest of abortion, too many are
forgetting the value of prudence in the public square.

Noah Brandt serves Americans United for Life as Communications Manager.