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Biden faces question of whether to keep abortion funding ban in his budget

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Since then, the furor had died down, so much so that President Barack Obama included the Hyde amendment in his budgets. But in recent years, particularly as racial and economic justice has grown in the Democratic Party agenda, opposition to Hyde rose exponentially. Abortion rights groups made opposition to Hyde a required part of the endorsement process for candidates. It was added to the party platform during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy.

As a senator, Biden was a longtime supporter of the Hyde amendment and cited his Catholic faith as one reason he backed it. As recently as the summer of 2019, the Biden campaign said he supported the ban, only to reversed himself days later under pressure from Democratic voters as he became the party’s front-runner for the nomination.

Forgoing the ban in the budget comes with political risks for Biden too. Although progressives would cheer it, refusing to continue the ban would further alienate Republicans and the voters who oppose abortion and don’t want taxpayer dollars used to fund the procedure. It could also provide a cudgel to hit moderate Democrats in swing districts during the 2022 midterm election.

Any real chance of Congress repealing the Hyde amendment appears slim. Even if the Senate filibuster is eliminated as some Democrats want to do, Senate Democrats probably don’t have the votes to pass it through a 50-50 split chamber. This year, three Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine of Virginia — voted with Republicans who wanted to add the ban to the Democrats’ COVID-19 relief measure.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who leads the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds health care programs, is personally opposed to the ban and believes it should be repealed, her spokeswoman said.

 

“She’s talking with her colleagues about the path forward in the Senate and building support for getting this done,” spokesperson Helen Hare said.

House Democrats have taken a more ardent position. House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said last year that, with the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., she will not write another spending bill with the ban.

DeLauro reiterated that pledge Wednesday, even as House Democrats contend with a historically slim majority.

“The Hyde amendment is one of the biggest barriers to low-income women’s access to health care, and I am committed to removing this harmful, discriminatory policy,” she said in a statement.

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