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Commentary Law and Policy

In Coronavirus Funding Talks, Trump’s Anti-Abortion Extremism Is Laid Bare

Paige Alexandria

The Trump administration apparently held a coronavirus aid package hostage in order to push its radical anti-abortion agenda. It was cynical and dangerous.

For continuing coverage of how COVID-19 is affecting reproductive health, check out our Special Report.  

The Trump administration tried to use its anti-abortion obsession to deny millions of people the resources they need to survive the coronavirus pandemic and slow the virus’ progression.

As Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent Thursday negotiating with Trump’s treasury secretary over a coronavirus relief package, talks reached a few sticking points—including the White House’s reported insistence that the federal response to a rapidly growing pandemic include “Hyde Amendment” language to ban federal funding of abortion. By Thursday night, the two sides seem to have come to an agreement on that issue at least, with Politico reporting that “the two sides resolved issues over federal funding of abortion in a separate bill that will also hit the floor.”

But we shouldn’t lose sight of what happened here. Trump’s stalling of the coronavirus relief bill was a blatant attempt to further his political agenda and appeal to his following of anti-choice extremists in an election year. It’s cynical and dangerous.

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Trump would rather stall efforts to mitigate the coronavirus’ impact in order to appease the anti-choice radicals that make up his political base.

That tells us he’s fine with gambling with the lives of the disabled, elderly, and immunocompromised communities who are most at risk of developing complications when contracting coronavirus. That tells us that not only does Trump believe a fetus has rights, but he believes those rights matter more than anyone else. That tells us Trump believes it’s acceptable for us to contract or spread the coronavirus as long as people can’t use government funds for abortion care.

I find this both maddening and unacceptable. And I’m not the only one.

“It’s immoral to use the declaration of a global pandemic to turn people who need abortions into pawns for cheap political points,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said Thursday in a statement. “In a moment when legislators need to turn towards science and data to stem the tide of a public health crisis that threatens the most vulnerable among us, anti-abortion extremists are instead using fear to opportunistically sneak through ideologically cruel and medically unsound restrictions.”

Kelsey Ryland, director of federal strategies for All* Above All, called Trump’s decision to delay approval of the coronavirus funding package an “unconscionable, shameful low.”

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Trump’s prioritizing of anti-choice ideology over public health and safety is “an abhorrent move that puts us all at risk.”

The discriminatory Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for abortions through Medicaid—but “Hyde language” has been incorporated into government health programs for years to prohibit abortion coverage, including the Indian Health Service, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Affordable Care Act, TRICARE, federal prisons, the Peace Corps, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

White House officials reportedly claimed that part of the coronavirus relief package could “open the door to federal funds for abortion,” and that leaving out the proposed language would “set a precedent of health spending without protections outlined in the Hyde Amendment.” But including the language would definitely set a precedent, as demonstrated by the health-care programs affected by this kind of anti-abortion language.

Trump accused Democrats of using the bill as a chance to “get some of the goodies” they want. When he’s talking about “goodies,” I can imagine he’s trivializing efforts like those made by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who have repeatedly introduced paid sick leave proposals that congressional Republicans have ignored since 2004.

We’ve seen the Trump administration’s anti-abortion obsession seep into much of its policymaking, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that something as critical as coronavirus funding would be held hostage over the administration’s Hyde demands. After all, this is the same administration that won’t let health clinics receiving federal funding provide abortion care referrals, even if that’s what the patient wants.

Hopefully, this provides an opportunity for people in the United States to see just how beholden Trump is to the powerful anti-abortion lobby. The consequences are plain to see.

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