Alex Brandon / AP
President Biden’s budget proposal fulfills a campaign promise to remove a long-standing ban on federal funding for most abortions, known as the Hyde Amendment.
The budget plan, released late last week, would abandon policy that restricted funding for abortion through federal programs such as Medicaid. The rule, in force since 1980, includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of a pregnant woman.
Biden has come under pressure from Progressive Democrats to topple Hyde, which reproductive rights groups say disproportionately harms low-income women and people of color.
A long-standing compromise
Abortion rights advocates have welcomed the move; a statement by Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson called the Hyde Amendment “racist, sexist, deeply unfair” and thanked Biden for working to remove it.
Opponents of abortion rights, meanwhile, argue that taxpayers with moral objections to abortion should not be forced to help pay for it.
In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the abortion rights group, the Susan B. Anthony List, called Hyde a “middle ground principle” and urged members of Congress to work to include it.
Biden, a longtime Catholic, has supported Hyde for decades – as have many other Democrats, often as a compromise position with Republicans. This has often been a sticking point in health care policy negotiations, including the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act and subsequent legislation.
The Biden budget proposal is far from the last word on the matter; Republicans are expected to work to reestablish the Hyde language during budget negotiations. Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a statement criticizing Biden’s budget, saying it “breaks with decades of precedent set by calling for abortion funded directly by taxpayers.”
Among Democrats, a turning point
In the run-up to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Biden reversed his long-held stance on Hyde, joining other Democratic hopefuls in saying he would work to overthrow her.
“If I think healthcare is a right, like I do, I can’t support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s zip code,” Biden said in June 2019.
Biden said his position has changed in response to changing circumstances, including increased efforts by Republican lawmakers to restrict abortion.
“He was not under attack,” Biden said. “As it is now.”
Later this month, at an abortion rights forum hosted by Planned Parenthood in South Carolina, Biden explained his turnaround, saying he had supported Hyde in an effort to expand care for federally funded health care. But he suggested that for low-income women who depend on federal programs, Hyde had become a barrier to full access to health care.
“It became very clear to me that while the Hyde Amendment was designed to try to divide the difference here to make sure women always have access to it, you cannot have access to it if, in fact, everything the world is covered by federal policy, ”he said. .
Promising to lift several Trump-era abortion restrictions, Biden ultimately rallied support from Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights groups, who put the weight of their campaign behind him in his fight against Trump in 2020.
Breaking Trump-Era Abortion Restrictions
Since taking office, Biden has taken steps to provide federal funding for abortions for low-income people. Like other Democratic presidents before him, Biden announced his intention soon after taking office to overthrow Mexico City policy, or what critics describe as the “global gag rule.” It prohibits international aid groups that receive US funds from providing or referring patients for abortions.
The administration is undoing a similar policy for national family planning groups that have received funding through the Title X program. New rules implemented under President Trump have prompted hundreds of providers to quit this program. program, including Planned Parenthood.
Abortion rights groups are calling on the administration to take further action, including overturning the Helms Amendment, which also restricts the use of US dollars to pay for abortions abroad.
State and federal battles continue
At the same time, lawmakers in Republican states have continued nationwide efforts to limit abortion, introducing hundreds of restrictions this year alone. Anti-abortion groups hope one of these laws will prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
The Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Mississippi law banning most 15-week abortions, a case that could open the door to deep erosion Roe deer and related precedents guaranteeing the right to abortion.