Clinton & Sanders' Abortion Pledge Shames Trump

In his most recent jaw-dropper, Donald Trump stated that as president, he'd outlaw abortion, and that women who get the procedure would then be punished. This not only outraged the pro-choice crowd but the mainstream pro-life crowd as well. When Trump walked back from his statement on abortion punishment, he shifted the blame for the hypothetical crime to doctors, but all has not been forgotten — even by his fellow Republican presidential candidates. Ted Cruz and John Kasich were both quick to slam Trump for his statement, but the fact of the matter is that all three candidates are adamantly anti-choice.

Even though Cruz and Kasich are using Trump's outrageous comments to take swings at the frontrunner, his remarks should remind voters that all of the GOP candidates have professed a desire to not only ban abortions (except in cases of rape or incest) but to also find ways to defund Planned Parenthood. And in turn, Trump and his peers highlight the importance of a promise that Democratic candidates made on abortion policy earlier this year. This is exactly why Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton's commitment to overturn the Hyde and Helms Amendments matters.

In January, Clinton and Sanders both pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinterpret the Helms Amendment. This was huge news for the pro-choice movement because these laws, which take aim at women's access to abortion and reproductive services, have been in place for decades. Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment bans Medicaid coverage of abortion. Forbidding the allocation of federal tax dollars for abortion means that women without insurance have to pay for the procedure out of pocket. It also means that states have a lot more control over abortion access than many pro-choice advocates would like. That's why states like Texas can undercut Planned Parenthood's operation. States cannot outlaw abortion, but they can place barriers to its access.

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The Hyde Amendment has had an especially negative effect on women of color and immigrant women, as they are more likely to live at or below the poverty line than white, non-immigrant women. The National Network of Abortion Funds blames the Hyde Amendment for forcing low-income people to “sell their belongings, go hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risk eviction by using their rent to pay for an abortion.”

Kaylie Hanson, national communications director at NARAL Pro-Choice America, which has endorsed Clinton for president, says that Hyde leaves American women incredibly vulnerable, as do TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws. Hanson tells Bustle in an email:

We have a long way to go in this country to make sure our policies make reproductive freedom for all a reality, and Americans will benefit from a president who will act on this goal. That's why we are so proud to support Hillary Clinton. She puts women at the center of every conversation, and believes we should expand access to abortion care by repealing the discriminatory Hyde amendment, clarifying the harmful Helms amendment, and doing away with TRAP laws that try to ban abortion. She's reaffirmed her strong stances on reproductive justice in the wake of Donald Trump's vicious comments, and we are proud to stand with her.

The Helms Amendment, passed in 1973, is similar to the Hyde Amendment, except that it affects women overseas. Helms prevents U.S. foreign assistance funds from paying for abortions in other countries. One of the controversies surrounding the amendment is that it restricts paying for abortion “as a method of family planning,” but what exactly that stipulation means is up to interpretation. The Center for Health and Gender Equality believes that this language suggests that abortions in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother may be funded. Yet the center points out on its website that USAID doesn't seem to see it the same way:

USAID has consistently misinterpreted the Helms language to exclude funding for abortion services where it is not used as a method of family planning such as in the case of rape. USAID also does not support the purchase of certain equipment and commodities that could be used to perform abortions or to provide post-abortion care.

The center asserts that 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year, with thousands more suffering from related injuries.

During Clinton's Iowa campaign, she stated that Helms must be reinterpreted because rape has become a weapon of war in many foreign countries:

I do think we have to take a look at this for conflict zones. And if the United States government, because of very strong feelings against it, maintains our prohibition, then we are going to have to work through nonprofit groups and work with other countries to ... provide the support and medical care that a lot of these women need.

Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, tells Bustle in an email:

Every GOP candidate running for president wants to block access to basic reproductive health care and make abortion illegal in this country [Hyde]. One in three women will have an abortion in her life time, and they cannot afford one of these extreme, out-of-touch candidates to become president. We need a president who will protect women's health and rights against these attacks.

Planned Parenthood has endorsed Clinton, but both Clinton and Sanders have pledged to reinterpret Helms. In fact, Sanders campaign said it would work to repeal Helms. "As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments," Arianna Jones, Sanders' deputy communications director, told The Huffington Post.


Many pro-choice gynecologists agree that Hyde and Helms need to change. Dr. Brent Blue, who describes himself as the last doctor in Wyoming who admits to performing abortions, tells Bustle, "Trump's an idiot."

If women were criminalized for having abortions, Blue believes there would be “back-alley abortions left and right” and “many more counterfeit [abortion] pills." He says that, "The anti-choice movement is all about controlling women. The issue of who they punish is not an issue. That's just smoke."

Dr. Leah Torres, an OB-GYN in Utah who has gained acclaim for using Twitter as a pro-choice advocacy tool, agrees that Trump and his supporters “hide behind what's the law.”

“Criminalizing pregnant people is dehumanizing to a group of people who should be revered,” she tells Bustle. “People who take the health and life risks of pregnancy should be upheld as sacred. People who don't want to give birth should be respected. We just allow rhetoric like Trump's to dehumanize an entire population that's way more deserving of respect, humanity, and our good graces.”

Torres “absolutely” believes that the Hyde Amendment should be overturned. “My tax dollars go toward a lot of things I'm against, like wars,” she says. “I don't get to decide where that money goes, even when I'm morally opposed to something.”

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Right now, Torres would like to see Sanders and Clinton telling states to “stop the madness” in terms of restricting abortions. “The states need to stop making it harder for people to access healthcare,” she says. Torres also believes that the Helms Amendment should be reinterpreted, because the United States has a commitment to assist women in underserved countries where abortion is “frowned upon and shamed.” She adds that abortion can be performed for as cheaply as $8 and prevent a woman from bleeding to death during childbirth. “I hope the president will speak up and advocate for reproductive rights. I hope the president will speak up and say that abortion is healthcare.”

Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster