For the second year in a row, President Joe Biden omitted the Hyde Amendment from his presidential budget proposal to Congress for fiscal year 2023 — keeping his promise to support reproductive health in a year when abortion rights are in peril.
The Hyde Amendment denies insurance coverage for abortions to people who receive their health coverage through government-sponsored plans like Medicaid. The legislation disproportionately impacts low-income women and communities of color, garnering criticism from Democrats who argue the amendment is anti-choice and blatantly racist.
“Presidential budgets are meant to reflect the values of an administration — and the Biden-Harris administration is once again saying loud and clear that reproductive freedom and access to care is a priority for the administration,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement Tuesday after the administration released the presidential budget.
Federal protections for abortion have been in effect since 1973 after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, but the Hyde Amendment has been in effect since 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.
The budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year reflects the Biden administration’s policy priorities and shows what it would like to get done in the next few years. Congress will have the opportunity to review and pass the proposal in full.
Although Biden pointedly excluded the Hyde Amendment from last year’s budget proposal, as did the Democratic-controlled House, the proposal died in the Senate. Earlier this month, Biden signed a $1.5 trillion spending bill that included the problematic amendment.
“Grateful that @POTUS’ FY2023 budget proposal is free of the racist and discriminatory #HydeAmendment,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) tweeted on Wednesday. “Our fight to repeal Hyde and affirm reproductive justice continues, and Congress must legislate to make this a reality.”
Omitting the Hyde Amendment would have a big impact on low-income and poor people in the U.S. Research shows that 1 in 4 low-income women seeking an abortion are 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.
Biden’s proposed budget also includes $400 million for the Title X family planning program, just over $650 million for international family planning, and an expansion in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to reduce new HIV cases.
Planned Parenthood president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson echoed Pressley and NARAL’s statements. McGill Johnson pointed out that the country is at a breaking point for abortion access, with nearly 350 anti-abortion bills introduced in 41 states across the country and constant attacks on birth control and other reproductive health care.
“Make no mistake, we are at a critical moment for access to sexual and reproductive health care,” said McGill Johnson. “The president’s budget is an essential opportunity to underscore the administration’s values, and we are pleased that the budget demonstrates a commitment to expanding reproductive freedom. Now it’s Congress’s job to build on that commitment. We need the health care leaders in Congress to support domestic and global sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities with robust investments and necessary policy change. The need is dire.”
The federal right to abortion hangs in the balance as the country awaits a decision in a watershed Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case, which centers on a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks, was debated in front of the court in December. The Mississippi law is a direct contradiction of Roe, which establishes a constitutional right to abortion access until a fetus becomes viable at around 24 weeks.
The high court’s decision could strike down the Mississippi law, meaning Roe would remain intact. But advocates and experts agree that the court’s conservative majority has signaled it will likely uphold the law, either by banning abortion outright or by moving the line of viability. A decision in the case is expected sometime this spring.
As pro-choice advocates and abortion opponents alike prepare for the decision, many abortion activists have criticized Biden for shying away from the topic during such an integral moment. Biden has said very little about abortion during his two years in office. His administration has made some limited moves to protect abortion care in the wake of these historic attacks, but the president has never actually said the word “abortion” in any of his oral remarks.
Abortion rights activists are worried that the president’s hesitance will have major consequences. “We need to hear from you, Mr. President, about this injustice, what your administration will do to end it, and why our nation needs to show up for people who have and provide abortions,” 1,000 people who have had or provide abortions wrote in an open letter to the president earlier this month.
To date, Biden has used the word “abortion” twice as president, but only in written remarks. The first time was 224 days into his presidency, when the White House published two written statements on Texas’ six-week abortion ban. The second took place more recently when he commemorated Women’s History Month in a written statement, acknowledging that “the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade is facing an unprecedented assault.”
Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 now heads to Congress.