DeLauro to remove ban on federal funds for abortions from House expense bills

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro has pledged “this is the last year” House spending bills will prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion in a hearing Tuesday as she is preparing to take over all federal spending in January.

DeLauro, D-3, has previously said she wants to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which has enforced this ban for 44 years with bipartisan support. But removing the amendment from the spending bills will require Senate approval, and Republicans, who could occupy the Senate after the second round of elections in Georgia, will certainly oppose the change.

U.S. Representative Tom Cole, R-Okla., Predicted DeLauro would be unable to repeal Hyde even if Democrats won the Senate due to chamber obstruction rules. He said Hyde had his “unwavering support”.

The Hyde Amendment was added to congressional spending bills after the United States Supreme Court released its landmark Roe v. Wade in 1973, who asserted that women’s abortion rights are protected by the confidentiality clauses of the US Constitution. The amendment only allows federal funds to be used to pay for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy. The result is that Medicaid, the government health insurance for low-income people, will not cover most abortion services in the majority of states.

In Connecticut, the state’s Medicaid program has covered abortion since 1986, but 33 states and the District of Columbia follow the federal standard and do not provide coverage.

During a hearing on the amendment on Tuesday, DeLauro argued that Hyde made it harder for low-income women, more often women of color, to get an abortion if they wanted to.

“The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy,” DeLauro said. “Now is the time to empower all women to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians breaking into the doctor’s office. “

Cole said the policy “has saved the lives of over 2 million people since its enactment in 1976, most of them people of color.”

“Before this provision was enacted, the federal Medicaid program paid for nearly 300,000 abortions per year,” he said.

The amendment enjoys strong support from anti-abortion groups and Republicans, while organizations aimed at increasing access to abortion and many Democrats have supported its removal from spending programs.

Christina Bennett of Middletown, director of communications for the pro-life Family Institute of Connecticut, said her mother was encouraged to have an abortion after deciding she didn’t want it by doctors in Hartford, Connecticut. She said Hyde’s repeal would lead to an increase in abortions among black women, who now have disproportionately high rates of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

“Free abortions are not in the best interest of our community. We need health care, better housing, paid vacation, affordable child care, ”she said. “Abortion on demand is a plaster against the economic disparities in health that push women to have abortions. “

Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, said women who cannot have an abortion due to cost, travel required or other restrictions, are more likely to live in poverty , to be unemployed and to struggle to separate from an abusive partner. She noted that black women have a higher risk of complications and death from pregnancy in the United States than other groups.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants to support the Hyde Amendment in 2019, but then reversed his position within days. President Donald Trump has said he wants the amendment codified into permanent federal law.

A bill to overturn the Hyde Amendment has 24 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate and 186 Democratic co-sponsors in the House, including all members of the Connecticut delegation.

As supply chairman, DeLauro may decide to withdraw the amendment from next year’s spending bills, then negotiate with the Senate to convince them to do the same. If Democrats gain control of the Senate in January, she could be successful.

Congress is currently negotiating a deal to approve federal spending for fiscal 2021 on legislation that is expected to contain the Hyde Amendment.

[email protected]; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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