Senator Tuberville and Mr. Hyde

It wasn’t the gentleman from Alabama who threw the first hardball in the fight over military spending on abortions.

Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons
Representative Henry Hyde in 1998. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

In the battle between Senator Tommy Tuberville and President Biden in respect of abortion spending by the military, the Sun is on the side of Henry Hyde. He is gone, alas, but in his day he was the towering Republican congressman who won passage of what came to be called the Hyde Amendment. It is the law that prevents the federal government from spending money on abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger.

Early versions of the Hyde Amendment entered our law in the late 1970s. Senator Biden was for years among the supporters of the Hyde Amendments. In  2020, though, he reversed himself and dropped the Hyde language from his budget proposal. Congress turned around and put it back, and most Democrats have ended up voting for budgets that made the Hyde language part of what the Constitution calls the “supreme law of the land.” *

It was in 2020 that Tommy Tuberville was elected to the Senate. We can’t help but wonder whether it was Mr. Biden’s reversal on Hyde that put Mr. Tuberville on red alert. In any event, the Congressional Research Service points us to Hyde-type language restricting the use of Defense Department funds in respect of abortion. Such funds “may not be used to perform abortions” except where the life of the mother would be endangered or in cases of rape or incest.

So whatever one thinks of abortion — and we understand how divided the country is on this head — it strikes us that President Biden was courting trouble when he ordered the Pentagon to cover abortion-related travel costs for service members. Or, as the Wall Street Journal put it, the defense department “deliberately waded into a live political fight and is mortgaging the public’s trust to make a statement on social policy.”

We have the highest regard for Secretary Austin and the military chiefs whose nominations are being held up by Mr. Tuberville. By our lights, though, Mr. Biden and Secretary Austin owe Americans more than the announcement by the Pentagon’s deputy spokeswoman, Sabrina Singh, that there is, as Stars & Stripes reported, “no” chance of the Pentagon changing its policy of paying travel and leave for service members seeking abortions.

Which brings us back to Mr. Hyde. What we particularly admire about him is the understanding that the right place to sort out the toughest questions is in Congress. So where is Congress? It has repeatedly passed the Hyde Amendments. So we like the point Kevin Roberts of the Heritage Foundation made in USAToday. The question, he suggested, is not why Senator Tuberville is “taking this stand,” but why he’s taking it with so few allies in the Congress.


* “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

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