For the first time in 45 years, House Democrats voted unanimously on Thursday to pass the annual Department of Health and Human Services spending bill without including the Hyde Amendment, a stipulation banning direct federal funding for abortions that is normally included in the bill.
Established shortly after Roe vs. Wade in 1976, the Hyde Amendment bans federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or the endangerment of the mother’s life. It is considered a “rider” to HHS spending bills, which means that the stipulation has to be added to the bills each year by Congress.
While there have been conflicts over its specific language, it has been included in every appropriations bill since its inception — until now.
House Democrats originally advanced the spending bill in question July 12, moving the legislation to the House Appropriations Committee for debate and a vote. The bill followed President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which also did not include the amendment.
Biden had long opposed using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions in due to his Catholic faith. He said in 1986 regarding abortion, “I don’t think it’s government’s business. And if it’s not government’s business, then you have to accept the whole of that concept, which means you don’t proscribe your right to have an abortion and you don’t take your money to assist someone else to have an abortion.”
But in 2019, Biden reversed that position and declared he would no longer support the congressional ban on using federal health care money to pay for abortions.
There is little chance the Hyde-less spending bill will go anywhere in the evenly-divided U.S. Senate. When Republicans voted to add the Hyde Amendment to the American Rescue Plan in March, they were joined in the vote by Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Tim Kaine (D-Virg.). Manchin said in June he will “support Hyde in every way possible.”
At a hearing on the bill early in July, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) argued that “allowing the Hyde Amendment to remain on the books is a disservice not only to our constituents but also to the values that we espouse as a nation.”
“We are finally doing what is right for our mothers, our families and our communities,” said De Lauro, “by striking this discriminatory amendment once and for all.”
Autumn Christensen, federal policy director for the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, said that the Hyde Amendment “saves lives by … eliminating taxpayer funding from the federal government [for] that service.” She continued, “We don’t think abortion is good for unborn children or their moms. And when the government funds something, you get more of it.”