2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding

2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding
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Democratic presidential candidates are seizing on the intensifying abortion debate by calling for an end to a 43-year ban on the use of federal funds for abortions.

Twenty-one of the 24 Democrats running for president say they support repealing the so-called Hyde amendment, which has prevented government health programs like Medicaid from paying for abortions, in most cases, since 1976. 

“I think the Hyde Amendment should be repealed and that we actually need to make sure that women, regardless of their income level, have a basic right to reproductive care,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC this past week. “It’s about our humanity and our basic civil rights.”

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The support from candidates come as more states pass laws blocking women from getting abortions after certain points in a pregnancy, part of a legal strategy by conservatives to increase the odds of the Supreme Court revisiting Roe v. Wade.

In response, some White House hopefuls, including Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerFormer public school teacher: Strikes 'wake-up call' for Democratic Party First-generation American launches Senate campaign against Booker 2020 Democrats tell LGBTQ teens they're not alone on Spirit Day MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter knocks Zuckerberg for invoking her father while defending Facebook Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems advance drug pricing bill | Cases of vaping-related lung illnesses near 1,500 | Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors MORE (D-Mass.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas.), have released their plans to protect abortion access that call for an end to the Hyde amendment.

“We'll do away with the Hyde amendment, so that ensures that regardless of your income or your ZIP Code you are able to access a safe, legal abortion,” O’Rourke said during a CNN town hall this past week.

The movement to end the decades-old federal ban, led in large part by women of color and abortion-rights groups, has gained prominence in recent years.

The 2016 Democratic National Committee (DNC) platform was the first time the party made repealing the Hyde amendment a priority, and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFarrow: Clinton staff raised concerns over Weinstein reporting Perry says Trump directed him to discuss Ukraine with Giuliani: report The Memo: Once the front-runner, Biden now vulnerable MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren raised more money from Big Tech employees than other 2020 Democrats: Report Krystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power' Saagar Enjeti praises Yang for bringing threat of automation to forefront at Ohio debate MORE (I-Vt.) were the first Democratic presidential candidates to make the issue part of their campaigns. 

But this time around candidates are putting the issue front and center in response to efforts to restrict abortion access at the state level. They are also drawing attention to how such bans disproportionately affect low-income women of color.

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“I have not seen this much support before, which is really amazing and fascinating to see,” said Jamila Taylor, director of women’s health and rights at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington that supports ending the Hyde amendment.

“To me, these candidates recognize that not only do we need to protect abortion rights, we also need to ensure that women have access to abortion care and abortion coverage through their health insurance,” she said. 

Of the party’s 24 candidates, only three have not commented on the Hyde amendment or have not signed on to legislation that would repeal it: Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart Poll: Almost half of voters say debates are best gauge of candidate's standing MORE (D-Hawaii), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings Warren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE (D-Md.) and best-selling spiritual author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings Williamson slams DNC, Tuesday's debate: 'This would all be funny if it weren't so dangerous' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE.

Even former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump accuses Biden of 'quid pro quo' hours after Mulvaney remarks Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense MORE, who supported the Hyde amendment while serving in Congress, told an American Civil Liberties Union volunteer that he now wants to end it.

“It can’t stay,” he said.

Because the Hyde amendment has been attached to government spending bills every year since 1976, eliminating it would require congressional support.

The policy has survived so long because government funding of abortion is a nonstarter for Republicans, as well as some Democrats, both on and off Capitol Hill.

Former President Obama waffled on the issue. He included the Hyde amendment in all of his budget requests to Congress, and inserted a similar version of it in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

But the Democratic Party has changed since then.

In addition to the DNC changing its platform in 2016, this year 126 House Democrats signed on to a bill introduced in March that would permanently eliminate the Hyde amendment.

But while many Democrats want to repeal the amendment, Republicans want to make it permanent.

A measure sponsored by Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg defends handling of misinformation in political ads | Biden camp hits Zuckerberg over remarks | Dem bill would jail tech execs for lying about privacy | Consumer safety agency accidentally disclosed personal data Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Miss.) known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, failed in the Senate in January but would have written the Hyde amendment into federal law so that it doesn’t need to be renewed each year.

Passing the legislation remains a priority for congressional Republicans, anti-abortion groups and President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE, a position that in many ways helps keep the issue on the front burner for Democrats hoping to challenge Trump next year.

In the meantime, opponents of the ban say the debate is shining a light on how the policy mostly hurts poor women of color who rely on Medicaid for health care.

“It's really important that we're starting to bring that conversation out to the forefront and to really explain that there is no real ‘choice’ if so many people can't access abortion,” said Lindsay Rodriguez, communications director for the National Network of Abortion Funds, which has long pushed for a repeal of the Hyde amendment.

“It’s really unjust to tell people that the folks that have the least amount of financial resources or who are getting their benefits through the government are unable to access this one type of health care.”