For the first time in decades, a president has submitted a budget without the Hyde Amendment, a policy that prohibits coverage of abortion care for people insured through Medicaid.
It’s now up to Congress to pass federal appropriations bills without the Hyde Amendment and related abortion coverage bans to ensure that people living on low incomes and receiving their medical insurance or health care through the federal government would be covered for abortion care—just as they’re covered for other health care.
“We applaud President Biden for this important step towards ensuring access to abortion, which is a human right,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement. “This historic step would not have been possible without the leadership of women of color, who have been organizing in their communities and educating elected leaders for years on the impact of this policy and why it must be eliminated.”
The president’s budget proposal will be submitted as a recommendation to Congress, where the House and Senate will decide on the distribution of the upcoming fiscal year’s federal funds, including whether to eliminate existing bans on abortion coverage such as the Hyde amendment.
Hyde Amendment’s harms fall hardest on people of color and those struggling financially
For more than 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has denied coverage of abortion care under Medicaid and pushed that care out of reach for people who are struggling financially—people who are more likely to be women of color, young, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion care has forced one in four women living on low incomes to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Women who are unable to access wanted abortion care are more likely to fall into poverty and more likely to experience intimate partner violence.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is part of a coalition, led by All* Above All, of more than 100 organizations advocating for the elimination of the Hyde Amendment and related abortion coverage bans—and in support of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act, a federal bill to ensure that every person who receives health care or insurance through the federal government would have coverage for abortion care.
Related anti-abortion measures remain in proposed budget
Though the elimination of the Hyde Amendment is an important step forward for health equity, the President’s Budget retains other policies targeting abortion care, including the Helms amendment, a 50-year-old U.S. policy that prevents women around the world from accessing abortion care.
“We are disappointed that the President’s Budget contains the Helms and Weldon amendments,” said Northup. “The Helms Amendment bans U.S foreign assistance from covering abortion care or referrals ‘as a method of family planning.’ This discriminatory policy has been broadly misinterpreted to include cases of rape, incest, and threat to a person’s life.”
In April 2021, the Center joined partners in signing a letter calling on President Biden to take immediate executive and administrative actions to undo the harmful impacts of the Helms Amendment. Just like the Hyde Amendment in the United States, the Helms Amendment prevents millions of people across the globe from accessing critical abortion care and limits their ability to make the reproductive decisions that are best for themselves and their families.
The Helms Amendment discriminates against low-income families and further marginalizes communities that experience intersecting forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on race, ethnicity, disability, and age. The President’s decision to include this burdensome abortion funding restriction from his first budget perpetuates these harms.
The Weldon Amendment allows U.S. health care entities to refuse to cover, provide, pay for, or refer someone for an abortion, and it is one of several refusal of care provisions that prioritize health care providers’ personal beliefs over patient care. Together, these refusal of care provisions embolden health care entities, including hospitals, health insurance plans, individual nurses and doctors, to deny patients abortion care and coverage.
The Center will be calling on Congress to pass “clean” federal appropriations bills free of the Hyde Amendment, related abortion coverage bans, the Weldon Amendment, and the Helms Amendment.
More action needed to ensure affordable and accessible abortion care
But making abortion care affordable and accessible will take more than eliminating the Hyde Amendment and other anti-abortion provisions from the annual budget. Other critical steps include passing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act (S. 1021/ H.R. 2234), a federal bill that would eliminate discriminatory coverage restrictions on abortion care, including the Hyde Amendment, and the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), a federal bill that would protect the right to access abortion by creating a nationwide safeguard against abortion bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion care from other types of health care.
Together these bills, if signed into law, would have the power to transform access to abortion care across the country. Congress must also pass the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act (H.R. 1670) to fully repeal the Helms Amendment.