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Biden Budget Plan Would Remove Ban on Federal Funds for Abortion -- Update

05/28/2021 | 02:55pm EDT

By Catherine Lucey

President Biden's budget proposal removes language banning the use of federal dollars for abortions in most cases, fulfilling a campaign pledge and setting up a fight in Congress, where most Republicans are opposed to the change.

The president's budget, released Friday, doesn't include the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion with exceptions for victims of rape or incest or if the mother's life is in danger. The language has been included in spending legislation for decades, and Mr. Biden had supported the amendment for years before reversing his position during his presidential campaign. Abortion-rights advocates and many Democrats had urged him to do so.

Abortion opponents say the amendment ensures federal tax dollars don't go to paying for the procedure, while advocates for access to abortions say it disproportionately affects low-income women and women of color who are Medicaid recipients.

The decision from the president comes as some Republican-led states add new restrictions on abortions and the Supreme Court prepares to consider the legality of a Mississippi abortion law that sought to ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

While this marked the first time in decades that a president sought to strip the language, the change wasn't highlighted in a budget fact sheet released by the White House. Some abortion-rights advocates have pushed for Mr. Biden to be more vocal on the issue, noting that he didn't use the word abortion in a statement marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision recognizing a woman's right to have an abortion, or in his recent address to a joint session of Congress.

"We are thrilled that President Biden followed through on his campaign promise and kept the Hyde Amendment out of his budget," said Destiny Lopez, co-president of abortion-rights advocacy group All* Above All. "We urge Biden to now use his bully pulpit to stop the bullying of the Hyde Amendment and offer full-throated support for abortion justice."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List, said that Mr. Biden's budget threw "longstanding, bipartisan consensus out the window to fulfill a campaign promise to the radical abortion lobby."

Democrats currently have a narrow hold on the House, where spending bills can pass with a simple majority. But in the Senate, split 50-50, most legislation must win 60 votes, making the elimination of the Hyde Amendment a tall order. A total of 200 House Republicans and 48 Senate Republicans have signed letters saying they will oppose any spending bills that don't include the Hyde Amendment.

Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) said that she was working to build support in the Senate for eliminating the Hyde Amendment.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R., Ind.), who organized the House letter, called the president's budget reckless and criticized Mr. Biden for not including the Hyde Amendment.

Polls show most Americans say abortion should be legal, but support is much higher among Democrats than Republicans. Overall support has grown in recent years. Abortion-rights organizations are a key Democratic constituency and a link to women in the party -- voters who could play a key role in the midterm elections.

Write to Catherine Lucey at catherine.lucey@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-28-21 1655ET

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