Hillary Clinton just cast some political bait in the form of the Hyde Amendment. Time to see if Donald Trump bites.
The Hyde Amendment, which has kept taxpayer dollars from being used for abortions, is now a presidential election issue, since Hillary Clinton decided to state that she intends to put an end to it if she wins in November. There have been pushes over the years to end this clause in funding measures, usually spearheaded by organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, but this time around, the most vocal supporting organization is the ACLU.
While a majority of Americans generally support a woman’s right to choose abortion, many of those same people do not want to see taxpayer dollars spent on the procedure. Those two positions are both on the side of government staying out of intimate decisions in women’s lives, which is where most people tend to stand, notwithstanding the vocal minorities who tend to make headlines, and push for legislative change on a regular basis. As for this round with the Hyde Amendment, some may say this is a major gamble for Hillary, since it could serve to alienate Catholics at the polls.
However, this could open an opportunity for meaningful discussions about what the ACLU and other organizations have been claiming is the justification for removing restrictions of any kind from access to abortions. The argument on behalf of clinics like Planned Parenthood is increasing or maintaining access to women’s health care in lower income areas. Conservatives have regularly claimed that the sole purpose of these clinics is to provide abortions. Neither side is being absolutely truthful, since the clinics – Planned Parenthood particularly – are very limited in number, and they do offer services beyond abortion – primarily birth control and sexually transmitted disease testing.
It is unlikely that the Hyde Amendment will be stopped, again because most Americans are not willing to see taxpayer dollars spent on abortions. The question is whether or not the fact that it is becoming a campaign issue will cause a larger conversation about the state of women’s health care, particularly in low income and rural areas. In recent years, we have seen many commercial entities start offering general health care clinic services in retail outlets. We have also seen an increase in the number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants dealing with patients exclusively for routine sick and well visits. What we have not seen is these new mini-clinics offering routine gynecological services and testing, either because of high liability costs or lack of truly private exam rooms that are large enough.
If left and right were honestly concerned about women’s health care, there would be talk about penalties for malpractice insurance companies that unfairly inflate insurance rates for clinics and providers that are not directly involved in long-term pre-natal care and delivery. Since it can be assumed that small clinics in a pharmacy would not choose to offer this kind of care, this might encourage them to offer more basic services. While it normally is not a good idea to suggest that government involve itself in controlling insurance rates of any kind, this is arguably an exception to the rule. There is no good reason for malpractice insurance companies to charge health care providers for coverage that includes anything that is well beyond the scope of their actual practices, which is what happens most of the time the word “gynecology” is mentioned. The topic of one-time tax deductions for companies that build exam rooms that are appropriate for routine gynecological testing would also be mentioned in the debates.
The fact remains that both sides honestly do not care about women’s health, access to care for the poor, or increasing women’s options for routine care. Abortion is the only issue, and the Hyde Amendment being dusted off during this cycle is just political gamesmanship. Hillary knows that Trump could be tripped up on this issue, if he is angry – we’ve already established that she is capable of pushing his buttons on the debate stage and beyond. It’s not likely that there will be anything meaningful accomplished by this hitting the center stage, but it should be entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, that means we have yet another problem that will not be addressed in an appropriate manner, simply because it is attached to a hot button issue.