WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden was the last Democrat in the party’s 2020 presidential field to embrace the idea of ending the decadeslong ban on federal funding of abortion.
Now as his administration writes its first budget, Biden has an opportunity to put that campaign pledge into action by issuing the first presidential budget since the Clinton administration that doesn’t prohibit abortion funding for people enrolled in government programs such as Medicaid.
Advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers are pressing Biden to forgo the ban in the budget, a symbolic act that they say will help build support for ending a restriction that disproportionately affects people of color and low-income women and doesn’t align with the values of the Democratic Party.
“During the campaign, candidate Biden pledged to end the Hyde amendment, Vice President Harris was an original co-sponsor of (a bill to end the ban) in the Senate,” said Kelsey Ryland of All Above All, which advocates against the the ban. Including it in the budget “would both betray his promise and show a real disconnect with where the public is on this issue.”
The ban, known as the Hyde amendment, was first introduced by anti-abortion Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois three years after the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973.
Whether Biden’s budget proposal includes the ban or leaves it out is largely a matter of optics because the president’s spending plan is more of an aspirational blueprint that is often ignored by Congress at the end of the day. Only lawmakers have the power to repeal the amendment.
Even so, a group of 23 Democratic lawmakers — including Rep. Barbara Lee of California and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California — is also pushing Biden to keep the ban out of his budget.
“We urge you to begin your presidency with a clear statement that discriminatory abortion coverage bans and restrictions have no place in our public policy by eliminating all such restrictions from your FY 2022 budget,” they wrote in a recent letter, calling it a “strong message to the Congress, the country, and the world.”
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who also signed the letter, called it an “intense area of interest” for abortion rights supporters on Capitol Hill.
“We are very anxiously awaiting and very much monitoring this,” she said. “We feel that the president’s budget needs to ensure that it supports women’s choice by not including Hyde. It only hurts women of color and low-income women in this country.”