Biden targets abortion restrictions as fight looms in Congress


WASHINGTON – President Biden has ended a policy that bars federal funds from going to foreign aid groups that perform abortions or provide related services, one of many measures that may spark a new debate on the access to abortion.

Mr. Biden may make some of his planned changes quickly, but others will likely run into hurdles in Congress, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Echoing many Democrats and abortion rights advocates, he said he supported removing a provision from spending bills known as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of funds federal funds for abortions, except in limited cases.

Many Republicans say they will oppose any spending bill that does not include the amendment.

Biden on Thursday released a “presidential memorandum to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care,” as part of a series of health care-related actions. One of its effects will be to reverse a rule known as the “Mexico City policy” – or, for critics, the “global gag rule”.


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The policy prohibits foreign nongovernmental groups that obtain US funding from providing information about abortion or abortion. Recent democratic administrations have ended the policy, and the Republican administrations have reinstated it.

The memorandum will also ask the Department of Health and Human Services to review a Trump administration rule that cut federal funding to family planning organizations like the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Any change should go through a regulatory process. A White House official said on Thursday that the final decision would be at the agency’s discretion.

In the Oval Office Thursday, Biden described the health care actions as an effort to “repair the damage [former President Donald] Trump did.

“It’s a good down payment, absolutely,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, of Mr. Biden’s early early steps, adding that proponents of wider abortion access are aware of. the obstacles facing the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.

“We are not blind to the fact that we are going to have recalcitrant individuals in both chambers in our hands,” she said. “We think we have the polls, we think we have the movement, we think we have the energy.”

Polls show most Americans say abortion should be legal, but support is much higher among Democrats than among Republicans. Overall support has grown in recent years.

Democrats have taken control of Washington after years of conservative efforts to challenge federal law allowing abortions. A number of Republican-led states have pushed effective limits or bans, while some Democratic-led states have sought to ease restrictions.

Anti-abortion groups have criticized Mr. Biden’s first steps.

A protest outside a church in Wilmington, New York, during a service attended by then-candidate Joe Biden on November 1.


Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

“This is a clear reward for the abortion lobby, which strongly supported the Biden-Harris ticket during the campaign,” said Mallory Quigley, spokesperson for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. . “And it’s a cold shoulder for millions of Americans from all political walks of life who oppose taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion companies.”

The Hyde Amendment of 1976 banned federal funding for abortion with exceptions for victims of rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. Opponents of abortion say it ensures that taxes are not used to pay for the procedure.

Abortion rights advocates say it disproportionately affects low-income women who are Medicaid recipients because the program does not pay for abortions with federal funds except in limited circumstances.

Mr Biden supported the Hyde Amendment for years before reversing his position during his presidential campaign, under pressure from Democrats and lawyers. He cited Republican efforts to limit access to abortions and overturn the Roe v. Wade from 1973.

With the appointments of conservative Supreme Court justices, lawmakers in conservative states are scrambling to overturn Roe v. Wade. WSJ Supreme Court reporter Jess Bravin reviews key Supreme Court decisions regarding abortion. Graphic Illustration: Laura Kammermann (Originally published June 10, 2019)

While many Democrats opposed the amendment, they struggled to remove it from spending bills. The party currently has a razor thin 221-211 grip on the house, where expenditure invoices can be adopted by simple majority. But in the 50-50 split, most laws must win 60 votes, and most Republicans oppose access to abortion.

Democrats hold a majority in the Senate because the Vice President

Kamala harris

took the decisive vote, and efforts have resumed among abortion rights advocates to make dismantling the Hyde Amendment a priority. But Senate Democrats don’t appear to have enough support to lower that 60-vote threshold, making it unlikely that they will be able to eliminate the amendment now.

A group of 200 House Republicans said in a letter to congressional leaders this week that they would oppose any spending bill that removes or weakens the Hyde provision.

“At the start of Congress, it’s a good time to draw a line in the sand and say for the 200 of us who signed the letter, we won’t vote for spending measures that don’t provide Hyde protection. “said the Republican. Study committee chair Jim Banks (R., Ind.), Who organized the letter.

A note from Biden will order a review of a Trump administration rule that cut federal funding for family planning groups. A family planning facility in Fairview Heights, Ill.


Christian Gooden / St. Louis Post-Dispatch / Associated Press

Meanwhile, the new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Rosa DeLauro (D., Connecticut), has said she will not include the amendment in House spending bills, calling him “One of the biggest barriers to low-income women’s access to health care.”

Rep. David Price (D., NC), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, said removing the provision would be a challenge, but “I think we have to try.”

Democrats are now primarily opposed to the Hyde Amendment, and the 2016 party platform called for the amendment to be repealed for the first time. But for decades, Democrats included the amendment in legislation that required bipartisan support. In 2019, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania voted in favor of a permanent ban on federal funding for most abortions.

On Thursday, a group of 47 Senate Republicans reintroduced a law that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent.

A coalition of abortion rights groups has made demands for this administration, including a review of a Food and Drug Administration requirement that women in-person visits to pick up abortion medication prescriptions, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

The President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Alexis McGill Johnson, said the coalition intends to “hold on

Joe biden, Kamala Harris and this administration at the highest level and ensure that they adopt a policy that promotes access to sexual and reproductive health. “

Write to Catherine Lucey at [email protected] and Kristina Peterson at [email protected]

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