Biden’s Budget Proposal Disappoints Pro-Lifers

Policy

President Joe Biden speaks after the House of Representatives passed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, February 27, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Late last week, the Biden administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, and, unsurprisingly, it came as a huge disappointment to pro-lifers.

The budget calls for a repeal of the Dornan amendment, which would make it possible for the District of Columbia Medicaid program to start directly funding elective abortions. It also calls for a 19 percent increase in funding to the Title X family planning program, which likely would result in millions of additional taxpayer dollars going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.

The budget proposal also includes a whopping 72 percent increase in funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has supported the Chinese government’s population-control activities, including forced abortions.

Perhaps most important, this is the first time since 1993 that a presidential budget proposal has failed to include the Hyde amendment. Since the 1970s, the Hyde amendment has prevented the federal government from directly reimbursing for the cost of elective abortions through Medicaid.

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By failing to include the Hyde amendment, the Biden administration’s budget marks a substantial departure from precedent, even for Democratic presidents. Each of the federal budgets that the administrations of President Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama proposed included the Hyde amendment. Nearly every budget that President Bill Clinton’s administration proposed contained Hyde as well, with the exception of his first budget, which he proposed months after his 1993 inauguration.

Given that Biden’s first budget proposal does not include Hyde, it is evidently the official position of this administration that abortion should not only be legal but also should be funded with federal taxpayer dollars. This suggests that Biden’s statements about unity and compromise are empty rhetoric, as there is no contemporary political issue more divisive or polarizing than abortion. By requiring taxpayers to pay for elective abortions, Biden has chosen to divide rather than unify, polarize rather than compromise.

We might learn a lesson from what happened after Clinton’s proposed budget for fiscal year 1994, which also failed to include Hyde. It should be noted that the Clinton administration succeeded in weakening the Hyde amendment. In 1994, the federal Medicaid program began reimbursing for abortions performed in cases of rape or incest. For most of the 1980s and 1990s, federal Medicaid funds  had only covered abortion in cases when the mother’s life was in danger.

However, due to the good work of a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans, the Hyde amendment was largely preserved. This year, Democratic senators Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Bob Casey (D., Pa.) have expressed support for the Hyde amendment, though both politicians voted in favor of the stimulus bill earlier this year despite its lack of Hyde protections.

It might be the case that, in 1993, pro-lifers benefitted from the ongoing debate over health-care reform. Some speculated that Democratic congressmen invested little effort in repealing the Hyde amendment because they expected that the proposed Clinton health-care plan would fund abortion. Others felt that the Clinton administration failed to make a strong push to repeal Hyde because the president wanted to save political capital for the upcoming debate about health-care reform.

Either way, Biden’s first budget proposal illustrates that the stakes are high for pro-lifers going forward. A substantial body of academic research suggests that the Hyde amendment lowers the abortion rate and saves lives. A 2010 analysis published by the Center for Reproductive Rights found that Hyde has saved more than 1 million lives. My own analysis for the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that the Hyde amendment has saved more than 2.4 million lives since 1976 and continues to save approximately 60,000 lives every year.

New data from the Illinois Department of Health, meanwhile, shows that after the state Medicaid program started covering elective abortions in 2018, the number of in-state abortions performed on Illinois residents increased by more than 11 percent. Pro-lifers would do well to focus on and make a substantial investment in saving the Hyde amendment.

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