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WASHINGTON, D.C., September 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In a year when national lawmakers have given pro-life advocates little to celebrate, national celebrations are taking place over a federal provision passed 40 years ago today. The Hyde Amendment, introduced by Rep. Henry Hyde in 1976, protects taxpayers from funding abortion-on-demand by blocking federal Medicaid funding for elective abortions.

Until that time, Medicaid financed an estimated 300,000 abortions a year.

Congressman Hyde, a Catholic Democrat-turned-Republican from the Chicago suburbs, introduced his measure as an amendment to a bill funding the Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) department in 1976.

“Abortion is a lethal assault against the very idea of human rights,” Rep. Hyde later said, explaining his dedication to the issue.

After 11 weeks of hard-fought negotiations with the Senate – and the support of Sens. Jesse Helms and James Buckley – the Hyde Amendment became part of the bill.

The original version had no exception for rape or incest.

However, it was promptly vetoed by President Gerald Ford, who said the bill cost too much. “I agree with the restriction on the use of federal funds for abortion My objection to this legislation is based purely and simply on the issue of fiscal integrity,” Ford, a “pro-choice” Republican, said.

But a coalition of pro-life congressmen who supported Hyde, and liberal Democrats such as far-Left feminist Bella Abzug who favored higher spending levels, joined forces to override his veto on September 30, 1976.

The bill was immediately held up in the courts, not taking effect until 1977 (when Democrat Jimmy Carter signed the measure). In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Hyde Amendment is constitutional in a 5-4 decision, Harris v. McRae.

In 1993, Rep. Hyde amended his own amendment, adding the rape and incest exception, because he feared President Bill Clinton and a Democratic-controlled Congress would repeal in its entirety. “I didn't think the votes were there anymore for a straight ban on abortion funding,” he said.

Congressman Hyde passed away in 2007 at the age of 83.

Since its passage, the Hyde Amendment has saved two million children's lives, one of every nine babies born on Medicaid in states that observe Hyde. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated the number of abortions would “expected to increase by approximately 33,000 if the Hyde amendment were to be repealed.”

Some 15 states use state funds to pay for abortion-on-demand. “Interestingly, 11 of those 15 states are funding abortion through Medicaid because of a judicial ruling or a court order,” writes Dr. Michael New, an economic professor at Ave Maria University, in a new paper published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Most Americans have been able to avoid paying for the vast majority of abortions.

“For decades, the Hyde Amendment has protected unborn children as well as the conscience rights of pro-life taxpayers who do not want to be complicit in abortion,” saysMarjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. That will change if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Dannenfelser warns.

Clinton has promised to gut both the Hyde and Helms Amendments. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, has held five separate personal positions on the amendment but, if elected, he will support Clinton. The 2016 Democratic Party platform calls for “repealing the Hyde Amendment” and U.S. funding of abortion “as part of America’s global health programming.”

Secretary Clinton’s “radical support for forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on-demand, up until the moment of birth is out of step – even with members of her own party.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, a pro-life Democrat from West Virginia, called the platform’s call to fund abortion at home and around the world “crazy.” Donald Trump, who has publicly committed to “making the Hyde Amendment permanent law,” enjoys a prohibitive lead in his once staunchly Democratic state.

Mr. Trump will have a partner in the legislative branch, if Republicans maintain their Congressional majorities. “Make no mistake: The Hyde Amendment will remain central in our fight for life until the day Roe v. Wade is overturned entirely,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Friday.

And the pro-life movement, which celebrates today, will lobby leaders of either party to make the Hyde Amendment’s permanent, regardless of the child’s parentage.

“Every child deserves a chance at life, regardless of their family's income level or manner of conception,” says Lila Rose, the president of Live Action. Voters must “tell our elected leaders that if they do anything to the Hyde Amendment, they must strengthen it, not weaken it, and once and for all, end all public funding of abortions and of any business that commits them.”