Pro-choice women will remain cautious on Tim Kaine
© Francis Rivera

When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on MORE chose U.S. Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Fill the Eastern District of Virginia  Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (D-Va.) as her running mate, the reaction outside the Beltway was “Who?”

But reproductive rights groups already knew Kaine as a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, a vestigial tail of a law that bans federal coverage of abortions unless a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.

Clinton, who as First Lady called abortions “wrong,” is in favor of repealing the amendment. In fact, the Democratic Party Platform calls for just such a repeal.

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Kaine, who cites his Roman Catholic faith as inspiration, is personally opposed to abortion. But he has said he would not seek to limit access for women – save for the restrictions placed by the Hyde Amendment, which he supports (despite the Clinton camp suggesting this summer that he’d come around.)

(From all indications, no. He has not.)

The online magazine Slate went so far as to suggest that Clinton was testing her feminists’ supporters’ loyalty by choosing Kaine.

The Hyde Amendment is the Maginot Line for some. It’s one of those compromises that isn’t. You either support the Hyde Amendment, or you don’t. And by supporting it, you’re saying that abortions should be restricted for certain women – namely, poor ones. Abortions can run upwards of $900, which places the (legal) procedure out of reach for women living in poverty. And who are those women? From the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Native American women have the highest poverty rate at 28.1 percent, followed by African American women at 26 percent, and Hispanic woman at 24 percent.

Women in poverty rely on Medicaid for all their health needs. Vasectomies are covered. Tubal ligations are covered. Abortions are not.

It was not always this way. In the days immediately following Roe v. Wade, Medicaid covered abortions, and then Henry Hyde entered the picture.

Hyde was an Illinois Republican, and author of the 1977 bill that banned federal coverage of abortions except under certain circumstances. Hyde, who died in 2007, said that he would have preferred preventing all women, no matter their economic status, from having abortions, but “unfortunately, the only vehicle available” was his bill.

In 1980, the legislation survived a Supreme Court challenge. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in his dissent that the amendment was “designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.”

Guttmacher Institute says that roughly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended.

According to the National Health Statistics Reports, women who are poor and lack an education are more likely to have unintended pregnancies than women with more resources.

Opposing Hyde tends to be something Republicans – not Democrats – do. NARAL Pro-Choice America decried Kaine’s earlier support of Hyde, as did Planned Parenthood. If abortions are legal, they should be legal (and accessible) to all. But when Clinton chose him as her running mate, most pro-choice groups touted Kaine’s record as a U.S. Senator, when he appeared to have put his beliefs aside to oppose abortion bans and to fight efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Kaine also co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which sought to limit government restrictions on abortion services.

Politicians have a way of evolving – or so one would hope. Sen. Kaine would be nearly unrecognizable to Gov. Kaine of Virginia, who ran on the promise to promote adoptions and reduce abortions in his state, and who supported abstinence-only sex education (just like Sarah Palin) until he cut that benighted program’s funding for lack of empirical evidence that it does much.

But we’re watching, Senator. And we’re watching closely.

Campbell is a journalist, author and distinguished lecturer in journalism at the University of New Haven. She is the author of Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl and the upcoming Searching for The American Dream in Frog Hollow. Her work has appeared in the Hartford Courant, Connecticut Magazine, The New Haven Register and The Guardian. Follow her @campbellsl


 

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