President Biden made good on a campaign-era promise to provide access to universal health coverage and a full range of health services that women need, by omitting the Hyde Amendment in his new $6 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.
The Hyde Amendment bans the use of federal Medicaid to cover all abortions, with the exception of rape, incest, or if the abortion is life threatening to the woman. The policy has been included in government spending bills since 1976, when the rule was first introduced a few years after the Roe v. Wade judgment.
While the rule does not limit state Medicaid programs from utilizing their own funds to cover abortion care, 33 states and D.C. have extremely limited abortion coverage due to the Hyde Amendment. Additionally, 16 states use their own Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, while South Dakota has even more restrictive measures in place than federal standards.
Pro-choice advocates hailed the President’s move, calling the omission “historic.”
“A presidential budget reflects the values of an administration, and the Biden-Harris administration is sending a clear message that reproductive freedom is central to the pursuit of equity and justice,” NARAL Pro-Choice America Chief Campaigns and Advocacy Officer Christian LoBue, said in a statement.
President Biden was a fervent supporter of the Hyde Amendment during his Congressional career, but he quickly reversed course during his 2019 campaign. At a Democratic Party fundraiser in Atlanta, then candidate Biden said he was “struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents,” according to reporting from the Associated Press.
Though the omission is a win for pro-choice, the reality is that the rule will likely still be part of the budget as Congress must approve of spending. The rule is largely bipartisan and it is possible some Democrats in the Senate still want the Hyde Amendment included in the budget.
The good news is that American voters for the most part agree with the President’s stance on providing Medicaid-funded abortion coverage. Polling from 2019 shows 62% of the electorate support Medicaid coverage of abortion care services, while only 38% of voters oppose. Further stratified by demographics, 67% of Millennials, 70% of Latinx, 73% of African Americans, 66% of independent women, and 67% of suburban women voters support Medicaid coverage of abortion care.
According to some of the most recent estimates provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 75% of abortions performed were among low-income women and 64% were among minority women—specifically Black and Latina women. Additionally, 72% of abortion patients included young adults and teenagers who have little to no access to a steady income.
“For far too long, the Hyde Amendment has put the government in control of a personal health care decision for many people with low incomes,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. “The policy is racist, sexist, deeply unjust, and immensely unpopular. Your ZIP code, financial situation or the type of health insurance you have should never determine what kind of essential health care services you can access, including abortion. It’s past time our federal budget reflects this essential principle.”