Jon Stewart Jokes about Abortion Language in Human Trafficking Bill

‘Just because the procedure is completely legal, doesn’t mean it has to be treated that way.’

The Hyde Amendment doesn’t treat abortion as “completely legal,” or so comedian Jon Stewart lamented in a recent show.

During the Daily Show on March 17, host Jon Stewart referenced human trafficking bill S. 178 with Hyde Amendment language. The amendment, he joked, bars federal funding for abortion because “just because the procedure is completely legal, doesn’t mean it has to be treated that way.”

To begin the segment on the bill, Stewart pretended he was leaving to join a fictional C-SPAN2 channel called "Hatewatch." In a preview of this new fake show, he announced “a bill I'm sure every American who’s not currently actively involved in trafficking humans for sex would support.” 

That bill would be the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan-supported anti-human trafficking bill authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), which faced criticism from Democrats because of inclusion of Hyde Amendment language. Senate Democrats filibustered the legislation on March 17. 

Noting the Senate gridlock, Stewart defined the Hyde Amendment as the “name for the action that Republicans apparently have to take to get the anti-abortion language into our bills.” 

“Let’s hyde it over here, let’s hyde it over there,” he teased. 

The amendment, he complained, “blocks the use of federal money for abortions, because just because the procedure is completely legal, doesn't mean it has to be treated that way.” “I see what’s happened: a little bit of Republican what we at C-SPAN2 call f*ckery.” 

The bill attempted to create the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund, which would have used fines against traffickers towards helping trafficked victims. While Democrats feared the language would “expand” the Hyde Amendment to include fees and fines, Sen. Cornyn argued that the fight was a “phony issue” because the amendment “contains an exception for rape and the health of the mother.” “[T]hese limitations on spending,” he said on the Senate floor, “wouldn’t have anything to do about the services available to help, under this act, those victims of human trafficking.”

In interviews with MRC Culture, critics of the bill deemed it “absolutely outrageous” and said the amendment inclusion shouldn’t be “controversial.” 

Stewart later continued his segment by poking fun at both Republicans (“f*ckery”) and Democrats (“dumbassery”) for their treatment of the bill. 

For Stewart’s jest, he garnered compliments from pro-choice organizations such as NARAL for “nailing it” on abortion.

— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.