On Friday, Joe Biden became the first president in some three decades to submit a budget proposal excluding the Hyde Amendment, a rule that has blocked federal funds from going to abortion care for the 40 years it’s been in effect.
The move to end the longtime policy—one of the greatest obstacles to abortion for low-income women and women of color—came on the heels of mounting pressure from abortion rights groups whose members have been disappointed by the Biden administration’s seeming lack of urgency around reproductive rights issues. (For one thing, the Biden administration still has yet to publicly say the word “abortion.”)
And it wasn’t a given that Biden would cede to their pressure: On the campaign trail, Biden changed his stance on the Hyde Amendment multiple times, shaking people’s faith in his commitment to protecting abortion rights at a time when they were under attack more than ever. In June 2019, Biden initially told an ACLU volunteer that he would lift the amendment before turning around and telling NBC News that he still supported it. Following substantial backlash, Biden revised his position once again, confirming that he was against the abortion restriction. “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said at the time.
Again—not the most resolute position a president could have on a policy that essentially decides whether poor women have access to abortion. And so reproductive health advocates applauded Biden for keeping his pledge to repeal Hyde. “For years, Black, Indigenous and people of color have organized to highlight abortion injustices that have disproportionately weighed on their shoulders, and today they have finally been heard,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, told the Guardian on Friday.
As the Guardian notes, Biden’s budget proposal, the 2022 spending bill, has a steep hill to climb to getting approved, and it’s almost certain to be voted down by Republicans and conservative Democrats if it leaves out the Hyde Amendment. But the bill still stakes out a clear position on the abortion rule, and abortion rights organizers believe it’s an important step to building a stronger opposition to the amendment and support for universal access to abortion.
“We will get there,” Destiny Lopez, the co-president of All* Above All, told the Guardian. “It’s important to put down these markers of support, for the leader of our party to put down a marker that he supports abortion justice, that he supports lifting of abortion coverage bans.”