Biden’s budget proposal, submitted Friday, does not include the Hyde Amendment, which denies insurance coverage for abortions to people who receive their health coverage through government-sponsored plans like Medicaid. Although abortion has been protected since 1973 after the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment makes the medical procedure essentially inaccessible for low-income women and many women of color.
“We are thrilled that President Biden followed through on his campaign promise and kept the Hyde Amendment out of his budget,” Destiny Lopez, co-president of All* Above All, said in a statement. All* Above All was founded as an effort, led by women of color, to restore and sustain public insurance coverage of abortion, and has since become an abortion justice coalition that’s led the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment.
“Ending Hyde is part of prioritizing racial equity and economic security, because the harm of abortion coverage bans falls hardest on people of color working to make ends meet,” Lopez said. “We urge Biden to now use his bully pulpit to stop the bullying of the Hyde Amendment and offer full-throated support for abortion justice.”
The budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year reflects the administration’s policy priorities and shows what the president would like to get done in the next few years. Congress will review Biden’s budget proposal, and has the option to ignore it altogether in order to prioritize its own policies. This is unlikely with Democratic control of both the House and the Senate.
The Hyde Amendment ― named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde (Ill.), a vocally anti-abortion Republican ― was passed in 1976 and has been renewed every year since. It bars all federal health insurance programs from covering abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Research shows that 1 in 4 low-income women seeking an abortion procedure is forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term when lawmakers restrict abortion coverage under Medicaid. Studies also show that a woman denied an abortion is more likely to fall into poverty than a woman who is able to get one.
Several pro-abortion rights lawmakers and advocacy groups applauded Biden for keeping his promise and reversing his stance on federal funding for insurance coverage of abortion.
“We are deeply grateful to President Biden, our nation’s first pro-choice Catholic president, for the strong commitment to abortion rights and accessibility that he demonstrates in his budget today,” Catholics for Choice President Jamie Manson said in a statement.
“Eliminating Hyde is a critical step in ensuring that all people who obtain health care and/or insurance coverage through the federal government will be able to access abortion care, free from political or religious interference in private health decisions,” Manson said. “In taking this bold and important step, President Biden is putting into practice the values of Catholic social justice, which compel us to work for equal care and equal justice for all, especially the most vulnerable.”
At the same time, some advocates were disappointed Friday to see that the Biden administration included the Helms Amendment in its 2022 budget.
The Helms Amendment prevents U.S. dollars from being used for abortion or abortion-related services in certain countries, even if abortion is legal in those nations. It primarily affects Black and brown women in developing countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia, which has led advocates and lawmakers to criticize the statute as racist.
Congress could prevent 19 million unsafe abortions around the world every year if it rescinded the Helms Amendment, according to a February report from the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization. Additionally, the overall number of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions would decline by 98% in the 33 countries affected by the Helms Amendment.
Anu Kumar, president and CEO of the reproductive health organization Ipas, said Biden’s budget decision on the Hyde Amendment was historic, but she’d hoped for more.
“It is unacceptable that President Biden did not take this opportunity to also signal his commitment to reproductive justice for all people, no matter where they live, at home or abroad,” Kumar said. “Since 1973, the Helms Amendment has oppressed and controlled the bodies of Black and brown women who live thousands of miles from the United States using the power of U.S. funding. It is time for this to finally end.”
In recent months, several lawmakers who support abortion rights have spoken out against the Hyde Amendment. In March, Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, which calls for the reversal of the Hyde Amendment and guaranteed insurance coverage for abortion.
“Let’s call this amendment what it is: It’s anti-choice and it’s blatantly racist,” Lee said to reporters in March. “We know it disproportionately impacts low-income people and women of color. It should never have been signed into law and it’s way past time that it was repealed. The Hyde Amendment has been used by anti-choice politicians to keep abortion care out of the reach for people already marginalized by our health care system.”