White House officials haven’t said what the administration will do. The administration is expected to issue its top-line budget request Friday, but few expect it will get into the question of the funding ban. A detailed budget is not expected until later this spring at the earliest.
The question facing Biden comes ahead of a potential congressional showdown on the issue this year. House Democrats say they won’t write another spending bill with the ban in place, a significant reversal after decades of going along with the policy. But Senate Democrats are far from the number of votes they would need to get a bill passed in their chamber.
Long considered a compromise between Republicans and Democrats, the Hyde amendment prohibits abortion except in cases of rape and incest or to preserve the life of the patient.
It covers people enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare, people who get insurance coverage through a federal employee’s job benefits, Indigenous people who receive treatment at Indian Health Service facilities, Peace Corps volunteers and women in federal prisons. Similar prohibitions also restrict U.S. foreign assistance from funding abortions.
While some states choose to fund abortion in their Medicaid programs using state money, 33 states and the District of Columbia do not, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The impact is vast. More than 7 million girls and women ages 15 to 44 are enrolled in Medicaid in those states where abortion coverage is not available, according to Guttmacher. It disproportionately affects Black women, about 31% of whom are enrolled in Medicaid, and Latino women, about 27% of whom are in the program. Comparatively, 16% of white women are enrolled.
“For the Biden budget to fail to omit the Hyde amendment would be a huge disappointment and would be a failure on the part of this administration to rise to the occasion,” said Megan Donovan, senior policy manager at Guttmacher.
Although the president’s budget doesn’t become law, advocates say Biden should use the symbolism of the spending plan to send a message on what’s important to his administration.
“We need an administration committed to bold policies that ensure everyone has the ability to make their own health care decisions, no matter who they are, how much money they make or what type of health coverage they possess,” said Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s vice president of government relations and public policy.
Former President Bill Clinton did not include the ban in his 1993 budget, and House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to lift it the following year.