House Democrats Kill Attempt to Repeal Hyde Amendment, for Now

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin (AP)

The Hyde Amendment may have become a litmus test in the Democratic presidential primary, but that urgency to get rid of it apparently hasn’t reached the House of Representatives.

The Democratic-led House is currently working to finish a batch of appropriations bills by the end of the month. One amendment offered to the bill allocating funds to the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education by several members—including freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal—would have repealed the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old policy which bars federal funding for abortion. This ban disproportionately affects low-income people, as it means that Medicaid can not be used to pay for abortion except in cases when the recipient’s life is at risk or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

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But that attempt failed on Tuesday, as it was judged to be a violation of House rules, according to the Hill:

Pressley’s amendment would have removed the Hyde Amendment from the Department of Health and Human Services funding bill and ensured coverage for abortions in public health programs like Medicaid.

The amendment was ruled out of order because it would have authorized new policies, a violation of House rules for spending bills. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could waive the rules, but such an occurrence is rare.

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House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and Rules Committee member Rep. Katherine Clark told the site that she supports a repeal, but in this instance, the Hyde Amendment “would become a focal point that could collapse everything in the Labor-H bill that is so good for American families.”

Most leading Democratic presidential candidates have called for repealing the Hyde Amendment, and after facing significant backlash and a thorough shaming by Elizabeth Warren last week, current frontrunner Joe Biden reversed his position and said he would support repealing it as well. The fight has taken on new significance after a rash of anti-abortion bills passed in state legislatures last month, including an outright ban on abortion in Alabama with no exceptions for rape or incest.

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Advocates of repeal in the House, however, reportedly anticipated the defeat. On Monday, Jayapal told Roll Call the amendment was written in a “very broad way” and thus could be ruled out of order.

“Look, I think that we all understand that the Hyde Amendment is a … politically difficult issue and we need to do a little bit more work to really make sure that everybody understands that without the ability to control choices for our own bodies, it is an economic justice issue,” Jayapal told Roll Call.

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In contrast, Pressley pushed the Democrats to use all available resources and avenues to push repeal. “As a response to the coordinated attacks on abortion rights and Roe v. Wade,” Pressley spokesperson Lina Francis told the Hill, “the congresswoman believes that she and her colleagues must use every tool and tactic available to fight for reproductive justice.”

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