House Dems Abandon Bid to Axe Ban on Federal Abortion Funding from Spending Bill

Representative Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Progressive Democrats have backed down from their push to scrap the decades-old ban on federal funding for abortions in a $190 billion budget bill.

The House Rules Committee on Monday night prevented the so-called Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, from being removed from the appropriations bill convering the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services.

Currently, the Hyde Amendment bars federal funding for abortions except in circumstances when the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The measure proposed by Representative Ayanna Pressley and other Democrats would “ensure” abortion coverage for people using federal health programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“As a response to the coordinated attacks on abortion rights and Roe v. Wade, the Congresswoman believes that she and her colleagues must use every tool and tactic available to fight for reproductive justice,” said Pressley’s communications director.

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“I think we don’t have the votes that we need,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, a sponsor of the measure. “It’s frustrating. I actually think the country is with us. It’s a political issue that is being used for political gain and it shouldn’t be because it’s a personal issue and it’s a constitutional issue.”

House rules ordinarily do not allow measures like this one that set into motion new policies to be introduced in spending bills without a waiver, a rarity that Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to grant.

“It is the law of the land right now, and I don’t see that there’s an opportunity to get rid of it with the current occupant of the White House and this U.S. Senate,” Pelosi said Tuesday, adding that she does not support the Hyde Amendment herself.

“Let me be clear on the Hyde Amendment: I would repeal it tomorrow,” said Representative Katherine Clark, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. However, she added that an attempt to repeal it in this spending bill would become “a focal point that could collapse everything in the Labor-H bill that is so good for American families.”

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