The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds President Biden for notably excluding the Hyde Amendment from his budget proposal.
The religiously rooted amendment, first introduced in 1976 by the ultra-Catholic Rep. Henry J. Hyde, restricts federal funding for abortion care. This means that low-income women on Medicaid (one in five women in the United States), in the Indian Health Service Plan or Peace Corps are essentially denied abortion care unless their state of residence uses its own funds to pay for such care. Currently, only 16 states provide such coverage. And since the procedure can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, the Hyde Amendment exacerbates health care and economic inequalities for low-income women.
Biden’s action is historic: The Hyde Amendment has been included in every congressional appropriation act since 1980. Hyde described his religious intent for enacting this amendment: “I believe in a merciful God, I believe in a just God, and I would be terrified at the thought of having to explain at the final judgment why I stood unmoved while Herod’s slaughter of the innocents was being re-enacted here in my own country.”
The amendment’s only exceptions are for instances of rape, incest or life-threatening illness of the pregnant woman — and while such circumstances are unfortunately all too common, individuals in such situations rarely end up with coverage due to red tape, reporting barriers and lack of enforcement. The Hyde Amendment does not even cover an abortion when the patient’s health is at risk and an abortion is medically recommended.
The Religious Right’s attack on abortion has become more amplified than ever. The year 2021 is already setting records for the number of abortion restrictions introduced at the state level. And now the ultraconservative Supreme Court has agreed to hear an abortion case that could dismantle Roe v. Wade and create abortion-care deserts across the country.
That’s why FFRF is celebrating Biden’s decision to uphold his campaign promise and exclude the Hyde Amendment from his budget proposal. Biden is a faithful Catholic as an individual but he importantly recognizes his duty as the top public executive not to use his civil office to inflict his personal dogma on other citizens. In excising the Hyde Amendment from the budget, he further demonstrates a commitment to equal protection under the law for women.
While we celebrate this development, it’s still vital to call your members of Congress to approve this budget proposal with its exclusion of the Hyde Amendment. And while you’re at it, ask them to support the EACH Woman Act, which would prohibit federal and state governments from restricting insurance coverage for abortion in public and private health insurance programs.
There’s a long road ahead even after Biden’s welcome move.