Coalition of State Attorneys General Ask Congress to Restore Hyde Amendment

Marshall argued that state attorneys general should work to protect a policy that offers conscience protections to taxpayers. “

U.S. Capitol Building
U.S. Capitol Building (photo: David Mark / Pixabay/CC0)

WASHINGTON — A coalition of 22 state attorneys general asked Congress this week to restore a prohibition on federal funding of abortions, after it was omitted from President Joe Biden’s budget request for the 2022 fiscal year.

The coalition, led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, R, sent a June 21 letter to congressional leaders defending the pro-life Hyde Amendment. The policy prohibits federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid.

Marshall told CNA in a phone interview on Wednesday that he and his colleagues want to show “a strong consensus of Republican attorneys general who not only believe this is incorrect fiscal policy for the country, this is a reversal of what was very much a bipartisan position.” 

“We are attempting to make a very strong stand on principle relating to the position of life,” he said.

Marshall argued that state attorneys general should work to protect a policy that offers conscience protections to taxpayers. “Taxpayers who fundamentally oppose abortion shouldn’t have their tax dollars pay for abortion on demand,” Marshall said. 

The Hyde Amendment, named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, is a federal policy first enacted in 1976, three years after the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. It prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions; exceptions were added in 1993 for cases involving rape, incest, or a maternal mortality risk. 

Since the amendment is not permanent law, it must be attached to individual appropriations bills each year as a funding condition, in order to take effect. 

An effort to codify Hyde as permanent law failed on Wednesday, as House Democrats used a procedural maneuver to block a vote on H.R. 18, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2021, authored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

As a candidate for president in 2020, Biden called for an end to the use of the Hyde Amendment, reversing his previous support of the policy that he had even outlined in a 1994 letter to a constituent.

In their letter this week, the attorneys general took aim at Biden’s reversal of support for Hyde, arguing that Congress “should not indulge it.”

“We were disappointed to find the conspicuous omission of the Hyde Amendment in the budget proposal that President Biden delivered to Congress earlier this month,” they wrote, adding that that they “have a unique interest in the Hyde Amendment as an important protection for the consciences of the millions of Americans who oppose public funding of abortion.”

Earlier this year, the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus leaders, and some Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Biden calling on him to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and comparable policies, describing them as part of “long-standing structural racism and inequities in our health care system.” House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a Catholic, has advocated for the repeal of the policy as well.

A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll released in January found most Americans oppose the use of tax dollars to pay for elective abortion procedures.