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Does the ARPA stimulus package really fund abortions?

Updated: Mar 30

There are plenty of valid criticisms that can be made about Democratic politicians who support abortion, but it is counter-productive (to say the least) when pro-life organizations make false or exaggerated claims about them. MDFL is willing to call out both our fellow Democrats and our pro-life allies when we believe they are in error.

A good case in point is the recent claim by many pro-life organizations that the recent stimulus package (the American Rescue Plan Act, or ‘ARPA’) will result in federal funding of abortions because it did not incorporate the Hyde Amendment. (Just do an Internet search for ‘abortion covid relief Hyde’ and you will find that claim being made by many major pro-life organizations.) The problem with the claim is that, as far as I have been able to determine, it is totally misleading.

The failure to include the Hyde Amendment in this particular bill was a major political mistake as far as appealing to the pro-life half of the U.S. population is concerned, but it will not increase the number of abortions or result in federal funds paying for abortions. The number of additional abortions resulting from the lack of Hyde language in ARPA appears to be zero.

Of the articles on the subject that I have read, the most detailed is from the Family Research Council, entitled American Rescue Plan Act Spends Over $450 Billion that Can Fund Abortions. The most obvious shortcoming of that article is the misleading exaggeration in the title. $450 billion is more than one thousand times greater than the total annual cost of all the abortions performed in the United States. (Not just 1000 percent greater, but 1000 times greater.) Such a title is good for generating alarm, outrage, and misunderstanding but those are not the right objectives for pro-life organizations to pursue.

The greatest strength of the article is that, rather than just making broad claims that are too vague to refute, it actually lists 17 spending items that are alleged to involve funding for abortions. Some of those items reflect misunderstanding of the legislation and others reflect misunderstanding of the Hyde Amendment. After looking into all seventeen spending items, it looks to me like the actual number of abortions funded by ARPA is zero. (I am sending my analysis out for review before I post it. After I confirm or correct my conclusions, I will post a link to it in a future blog post and a future issue of our newsletter.)

Why does it matter when pro-life organizations publish false claims about Democrats and the legislation that they pass? After all, pro-choice Democrats really are pro-choice, and most of them are likely to oppose adding the Hyde Amendment to legislation where it can actually make a difference, such as bills to fund programs like Medicaid that pay for medical services.

There are several reasons why pro-life organizations should avoid such claims:

- Truth matters.

- These false or exaggerated claims provoke unnecessary divisiveness and erroneous demonization of the Biden administration. Those are understandable objectives for the Republican Party, but they are not appropriate objectives for the pro-life movement.

- False or exaggerated claims reduce the credibility of the pro-life movement among the people that it needs to win over.

- False claims divert attention from the actual strengths and weaknesses of the legislation in question.

- It is counter-productive to make politicians pay for things they have not actually done. Once pro-life organizations convince their followers that Democrats have already funded abortions, pro-choice politicians have nothing more to lose by actually doing it. There is not much incentive for politicians to do what the pro-life movement wants if they think that the pro-life press will attack them with misleading half-truths regardless of what they do.

Failure to clarify that ARPA is not paying for abortions was a political blunder rather than an assault on the unborn. Democratic policymakers could have saved themselves from a lot of bad press by adding a simple sentence to clarify what was already true: ‘This legislation does not include funding for abortions and it shall not be interpreted as providing funding for abortions.’

Watch for a future posting with a detailed explanation of why the 17 items in question do not actually involve funding for abortions.

You are invited to add your comments below.

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