I had a lengthy chat with another blogger who clarified to me where I was wrong on the Giuliani/Hyde amendment/abortion funding controversy. My mistake was in my misconception that the Hyde amendment blocked funding for all abortions using federal dollars, rather than funding for all abortions except those resulting from rape or incest, or in cases where the life of the mother is threatened.
Realizing the latter - that some federal funding of abortion is currently legal - then if you read Giuliani's recent statements 'in his favor,' you can argue that he has not staked ground as any more pro-choice than he was a day or so ago. Reviewing, Giuliani has said:
- (Through spokesmen) that he supports the Hyde amendment as is; and,
- That he supports some federal funding for abortion - if the failure to provide funds 'would deprive someone of a constitutional right.'
Point 2 was the one that ignited the controversy yesterday. The Mayor responded to the criticism by saying today: "If that's real important to you, if that's the most important thing, I'm comfortable with the fact that you won't vote for me." His campaign subsequently issued a statement:
What I said yesterday is what I’ve been saying throughout, I think in the last number of months publicly and privately for quite some time, which is I’m against abortion, I hate it, I wish there never was an abortion and I would council a woman have an adoption instead of an abortion but ultimately I believe an individual right and a woman can make that choice. I also, on public funding or funding of abortion said I would want to see it decided on a state by state basis. And what that means is I would leave the Hyde Amendment in place. It’s been the law now, 17, 18 years, it’s part of the constitutional balance that I talked about yesterday and the Hyde Amendment leaves the funding issue largely to the states. They have to decide how they’re going to do it. And same thing on the issue that you’re giving me now, which is I believe that the state should decide. And that’s largely my approach not only in the area of abortion but in the area of guns and other things. I think these things are best decided on a state by state basis and would have as limited a federal role as the law requires.
There is conflict among his statements here. He wants to provide funds where they're needed 'to guarantee a constitutional right.' He also wants to keep the Hyde amendment as is. But the Hyde amendment doesn't provide funds for those who can't otherwise afford an abortion. It allows states to offer funds in the cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. So Giuliani was either talking about some new use of federal dollars outside the Hyde amendment, or he misspoke - or was confused about the particulars - as I was.
If you're a pro-life voter and want to resolve this in Giuliani's favor, you clearly can do so. He misspoke when he talked of financing abortions to ensure that no one is 'deprived of a constitutional right.' He meant to say that he agrees with the current Hyde amendment, without changes. He backed it up when he issued his statement today, which speaks strongly in support of Hyde.
If you don't want to give Giuliani the benefit of the doubt, you can say that he showed his true colors. He is not 100% committed to Hyde, and he is open to expanded federal funds. He only issued his pro-Hyde statement today to quiet the controversy. And if you read it closely, you see he still doesn't state unequivocally that he would veto a bill that would expand financing, only that he would 'leave the Hyde amendment in place' - a phrase that's rather flexible.
The Mayor will have to speak on this more and clarify his views further, and I hope he does it more carefully than he has done in the last few days. It seems to me that his statements were sloppy at best, and they were bound to cause him trouble. On a topic as touchy as this one, he must tread very carefully indeed.
The Hotline is less generous in pointing out problems in the Mayor's statements.