CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – The two Democratic frontrunners for president have publicly called for ending the ban on taxpayer funding of abortion, going further in their language than even Barack Obama did during his first presidential campaign.
The positions of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are not surprising – they have made similar statements in the past – although their emphasis on the issue in such a high-profile national campaign is of significance.
A solid majority of American adults oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
The controversy surrounds what is called the Hyde Amendment, which is part of Congressional spending bills and prevents the federal government from funding abortions. It was first passed in 1976, three years after Roe v. Wade, and was upheld in 1980 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Clinton has commented on tax-funded abortions at least twice this month, while Sanders released a statement last week making his position clear.
Clinton voluntarily raised the issue during a speech in New Hampshire earlier this month, and when asked in a subsequent forum if she supported repeal of the Hyde Amendment, responded, "yes" and added, "I think we should do everything we can to repeal the Hyde Amendment."
She has made legal abortion a hallmark of her campaign, including passionately defending Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.
"I will always defend Planned Parenthood and I will say consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported and appreciated -- not undermined, misrepresented and demonized," she said during the New Hampshire campaign speech. "I believe we need to protect access to safe and legal abortion, not just in principle but in practice. Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all. ... Not when providers are required by state law to recite misleading information to women in order to shame and scare them, and not as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights."
When Obama ran for president in 2007-08 he downplayed cultural issues to appeal to conservatives and moderates. During one speech he did call for passage of the Freedom of Choice Act – a bill that would guarantee tax-funded abortion – although he didn't go as far as Clinton has on the issue.
Sanders, too, has made his position clear.
"As president, and as someone who has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record in Congress, I will do everything that I can to protect and preserve a woman's right to an abortion," Sanders said in a statement. "Women must have full control over their reproductive health in order to have full control over their lives. We must rescind the Hyde Amendment and resist attempts by states to erect roadblocks to abortion."
A 2014 CNN poll showed that 56 percent of U.S. adults opposed using "using public funds for abortions when the woman cannot afford" an abortion. In a 2015 Marist poll done for the Knights of Columbus, 68 percent of Americans said they opposed using "tax dollars to pay for a woman's abortion."