Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump’s mental health

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.

We’ve got a lot to cover today. The Trump administration is restricting federal research using fetal tissue, Joe Biden is coming under fire from pro-abortion groups, HHS is scaling back funding for unaccompanied migrant children, and controversial Medicaid guidance is coming soon.

We’ll start with the 2020 race…


Biden campaign confirms he supports Hyde Amendment

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign confirmed that he still supports a controversial ban prohibiting the use of federal funds for certain abortion services.

Campaign aides told The Hill that the 2020 presidential hopeful still supports the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented government health programs like Medicaid from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.{mosads}

Biden’s campaign did say that Biden would be open to repealing the amendment if abortion access currently protected under Roe v. Wade was threatened.


Why it matters…

Biden initially said “it has to go” when asked last month by an activist about the Hyde Amendment. His campaign said Wednesday he misheard the activist, and thought she was asking about the Mexico City Policy, which bans foreign aid to organizations that promote or provide abortions.

Read more on Biden’s stance here.


Biden took heat from fellow Dems.

Biden’s support of the Hyde amendment is at odds with most Democrats running for president, who quickly distanced themselves from his stance.

“There is #NoMiddleGround on women’s rights. Abortion is a constitutional right. Under my Medicare for All plan, we will repeal the Hyde Amendment,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has consistently finished second to Biden in polling, tweeted.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) also weighed in. “No woman’s access to reproductive health care should be based on how much money she has. We must repeal the Hyde Amendment,” Harris tweeted.

More on the Democratic blowback here.


And his move infuriated abortion-rights groups.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), the reproductive health organization’s advocacy group, called the policy “discriminatory” and “strongly encouraged” Biden to rethink his position.

“To support the Hyde Amendment is to block people — particularly women of color and women with low incomes — from accessing safe, legal abortion,” PPAF executive director Kelley Robinson said in a statement.

“Differentiating himself from the field this way will not earn Joe Biden any political points and will bring harm to women who are already most vulnerable,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

More on their response here.


The move is also raising more questions about Biden’s past views on abortion rights.

As a senator from Delaware, Biden once voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade. He also supported the Mexico City Policy, which bans federal aid to foreign organizations that provide or promote abortions.

Biden now says he would consider codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law in case the ruling is overturned by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. His campaign also said he would overturn the Mexico City Policy, which was reinstated in 2017 by President Trump.


Trump officials ending legal aid, English classes for migrant children in shelters

The Trump administration told migrant shelters this week to wind down services — such as legal aid, English classes and recreational activity — that are not directly related to children’s safety.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it began instructing grantees this week to begin scaling back or discontinuing awards for activities “that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation.”

Is it legal? The move could run afoul of the Flores agreement, the federal court settlement that governs minors in federal custody. Legal experts and Democrats slammed the cuts, which they called inhumane.

Money fight: The reason this is happening? HHS says it’s running out of money to fund its refugee office. HHS said ending those services are necessary under the Antideficiency Act, which requires the department to prioritize safety when faced with a funding shortfall. “Additional resources are urgently required to meet the humanitarian needs created by this influx — to both sustain critical child welfare and release operations and increase capacity,” HHS said. The department is seeking an emergency appropriation of $2.88 billion to fund its refugee operations.

What next: House appropriators are figuring out how to make sure the agency gets the money, but Democrats want to ensure the administration isn’t getting a blank check, and that the funding can be used to help children. The money for the refugee office is also tied into a broader request for $3.4 billion in emergency spending for the border. The White House tried to attach the request to a disaster aid bill that passed this week, but negotiations stalled.

Read more here


Trump administration tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research

In a victory for the conservative anti-abortion movement, the Trump administration on Wednesday said it will block scientists from using federal funds to conduct research that relies on material collected from elective abortions.

The administration also cancelled a multi-million-dollar contract with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) that uses fetal tissue to test new HIV treatments.

Anti-abortion groups have long called on the administration to eliminate funding for fetal tissue research and praised Wednesday’s announcement.

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.

The UCSF contract was due to expire Wednesday after the Trump administration granted a 90-day extension. While the department in its statement did not give an explanation as to why the contract was cancelled, an agency official said it was for “ethics reasons.”  

Future implications: As part of the new restrictions, HHS said it is conducting a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue “to ensure consistency with statutes and regulations governing such research, and to ensure the adequacy of procedures and oversight of this research in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

HHS also said it will impose ethics reviews on government-funded research at universities and other scientific centers that propose to use fetal tissue.

Read more on the restrictions here.


House Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump’s mental health

House Democrats plan to hold an event intended to highlight what they say is President Trump’s deteriorating mental health.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said he and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) will host Dr. Bandy Lee, a Yale School of Medicine psychiatrist who edited the best-selling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

“We are planning to do something where she can make a presentation to other members, so that they’ll be aware of what she’s been working on,” Yarmuth told The Hill in a brief interview.

Yarmuth said he anticipates the event, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner, will happen sometime in July.

Yarmuth said he thinks it’s important that members of Congress and the public understand the position of Lee and the other psychologists in the book, which argues that Trump’s mental health has deteriorated to the point where it poses a threat to the country.

Read more here.


Controversial guidance on Medicaid block grants moves forward

For those reading the tea leaves on sweeping Medicaid changes: Long-awaited guidance from the Trump administration allowing states to apply for block grants on their Medicaid programs has been submitted to the White House for review, a step forward in the process. The guidance could come as early as next week.

Why it matters: Allowing for Medicaid funding to be limited in a block grant is a longtime conservative goal, and an idea that Democrats are sure to attack as a damaging cut to Medicaid funding.

Flashback: Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar revealed publicly in a hearing in March that the administration is in talks with states about block grants.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.), who asked Azar about the issue, blasted the idea at the time.  

“To say that I and many others will fight these cuts with an unyielding passion is an understatement,” Casey said.


The Hill event:

On Tuesday, June 25th, The Hill will host Cost, Quality and Care: The Medicare Equation at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons and Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and an expert panel for a discussion on how leaders in Washington and the health industry can bring down drug costs for Medicare patients while continuing to ensure quality of care for those who depend on the program. RSVP here.


What we’re reading

Democratic senators seek answers from Quest Diagnostics after data breach (The Hill)

House panel sets ‘Medicare for All’ hearing for next week (The Hill)

North Carolina House fails to override governor’s veto of ‘born alive’ abortion bill (The Hill)

NIH has referred 16 allegations of foreign influence on U.S. research to investigators (Stat News)

Ohio doctor charged with 25 counts of murder, accused of prescribing excessive doses of painkillers (NBC News)

Dropped from health insurance without warning: was it legal? (Kaiser Health News)

Pfizer had clues its blockbuster drug could prevent Alzheimer’s. Why didn’t it tell the world? (The Washington Post)


State by state

Pennsylvania moves to take over ObamaCare health insurance exchange (Associated Press)

Wisconsin Republicans stand by rejection of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to expand Medicaid (Associated Press)


From The Hill’s opinion page:

Candidates should follow Sen. Harris’s lead on maternal health

The anti-birth-control minority controlling our health care

Tags Bernie Sanders Bob Casey Bob Cusack Brett Guthrie Donald Trump Doris Matsui Jamie Raskin Joe Biden John Yarmuth
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video