Dem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions

Support is growing among Democrats in Congress for allowing abortion coverage in publicly funded health programs.

House Democrats, who say they have a “pro-choice majority” for the first time in history, are vowing to end a long-standing ban of abortion coverage in Medicaid called the Hyde Amendment.

They also want to ensure that future government health care plans mandate abortion coverage.

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“I actually think we have the American people with us,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation banning government use of facial recognition technologies MORE (D-Wash.), a co-sponsor of a bill to eliminate the Hyde amendment and a sponsor of a Medicare for All bill that mandates abortion coverage.

“If you look at the power of women voters, Republicans and Democrats and independents, people want to be able to get their reproductive services, they don't want the government interfering with their decision about what they do with their body.”

The Hyde Amendment is attached annually to government spending bills, forbidding the use of public funds for the procedure in Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and other health programs, except in limited circumstances.

While the amendment was introduced with bipartisan support in 1976, it has become a partisan issue in recent years, supported by Republicans but loathed by many Democrats. 

Opponents argue that it makes abortion inaccessible for low-income women, with a disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

Now, with Democrats in control of the House, opponents may have a chance to strip the amendment from an upcoming spending bill, which would set up a showdown with the GOP Senate.

“When they try to put these pieces of anti-choice legislation in bills, we can block it,” said Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuMinority caucuses call for quick action on police reform House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments Democrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. 

“[Republicans] attempted many, many times over to defund Planned Parenthood, to put these restrictive anti-choice amendments into spending bills. We’re going to stop that.” 

A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeNina Turner addresses Biden's search for a running mate House to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling Black Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism MORE (D-Calif.) that would permanently repeal the Hyde Amendment had 137 supporters in the last Congress, and a Senate version was introduced for the first time two weeks ago by Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthDuckworth to block military confirmations until Esper proves Vindman will be promoted Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP Trump faces bipartisan calls for answers on Russian-offered bounties MORE (D-Ill.). 

Neither bill will become law this year, but it shows the path the party hopes to take if it wins control of the White House and the Senate in 2020 or beyond.

“The issue of repealing Hyde was considered a far-left issue for a really long time. Something folks didn’t want to talk about on [Capitol Hill],” said Destiny Lopez, co-director of the All Above All Action Fund, a group focused on repealing the Hyde Amendment. 

“I think there’s been a series of external forces that have really made it possible for champions of reproductive justice to be more open on this issue, and they’ve really stepped up to lead in a vocal way. What we’re trying to do is really help people understand you can’t support abortion rights and not support repealing the Hyde Amendment,” she said.

Anti-abortion groups say Democrats are playing into their hands.

“The other most important issue to voters, when we go door to door, is the taxpayer funding of abortion,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national group that works to elect anti-abortion politicians. 

“Our opinion is if that’s what Democrats want to talk about, keep talking about it. We want to make sure everyone knows what their position is, and we’ll win.” 

A range of high-profile Democrats support repealing the Hyde Amendment, including several 2020 presidential candidates such as Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (N.Y.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (Calif.). House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' MORE (D-Calif.) has previously called for its repeal. The Democratic National Committee also backed a repeal of the Hyde Amendment in its 2016 platform. 

The idea of publicly funded abortion was once a more divisive issue among Democrats.

The Affordable Care Act almost didn’t pass because anti-abortion Democrats wanted restrictions on funding for plans that cover abortions. 

Today, there are only four House Democrats who identify as anti-abortion. 

Democrats are far from united on health care reform, but in the House, at least, there is near unanimity that health care legislation should cover abortion. 

“The current legislation for Medicare for All would cover abortion as an essential health care component, and I think that would as a necessity be in any legislation we would pass in the future,” said Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteShort-term health plans leave consumers on the hook for massive medical costs, investigation finds White House shifts focus from coronavirus Administration rolls back pollution standards amid a global pandemic MORE (D-Colo.), co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus.