Duckworth Joins Congressional Pro-Choice Colleagues in Urging Biden to Eliminate Abortion Coverage Restrictions from Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13), six Democratic Senators and 12 House Democrats in sending a letter to President Joe Biden urging the removal of abortion coverage restrictions from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
“The pandemic yet again showed the long-standing structural racism and inequities in our health care system, with communities of color, particularly those in the Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander communities, and Indigenous people facing high rates of infection and death from COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are ready to work with the Biden Administration to undo harmful abortion access policies that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In the letter, the lawmakers said that reversing the Trump Administration’s policies undermining access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, both domestically and globally, must be a top priority for the Biden Administration, but “simply reverting to where things were in 2016 is not enough.” They called on the president to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, the Weldon Amendment, the Helms Amendment and other similar abortion coverage restrictions from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
In addition to Duckworth and Lee, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Representatives Julia Brownley (CA-26), Judy Chu (CA-27), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Theodore E. Deutch (FL-22), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Norma J. Torres (CA-35).
The full letter is available here and included below.
Dear Mr. President:
As leaders of the Pro-Choice Caucus and Democratic Women’s Caucus on behalf of the pro-choice majority in the House of Representatives, and Senators committed to reproductive health access, we request that you eliminate abortion coverage restrictions from your Fiscal Year 2022 budget. We are committed to ensuring all people can access reproductive health care, including abortion, no matter how much money they make, where they were born or live, their age, their immigration status, their race, or their sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity. Over the last four years, the Trump Administration systematically undermined access to sexual and reproductive health care, both domestically and globally. The right to control one’s reproductive autonomy has been attacked, making it harder for people in the United States and around the world to receive essential health services.
Reversing these harms must be a top priority for the new Biden Administration. But simply reverting to where things were in 2016 is not enough. We must ensure that all people— both at home and abroad—truly have sexual and reproductive autonomy. Advancing sexual and reproductive rights and justice will not only promote health, but help make progress toward a safer, equitable world. During your campaign you committed to repeal the Hyde amendment and you continue to affirm your support for sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally.
We are respectfully requesting that you eliminate the Hyde Amendment, the Weldon Amendment, the Helms Amendment, and other similar abortion coverage restrictions from your Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on coverage have a far-reaching impact on people enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare; federal employees and their dependents; Peace Corps Volunteers; Indigenous people; women in federal prisons and immigration detention centers; and residents of the District of Columbia. The Weldon Amendment has been attached to Hyde and used to 2 interfere with policies that expand abortion coverage and access. Opponents of abortion access, including the Trump Administration, have invoked the Weldon Amendment in attempts to block policies to expand abortion care and coverage by threatening policymakers with the loss of critical federal health dollars. Under the Helms Amendment, U.S. foreign assistance support for anything related to abortion remains restricted, denying people around the world the life-saving care that they want and need. Now is the time to end these harmful policies and we look forward to working with your administration to end this shameful legacy. A clean budget from you will send a signal to Congress that you agree abortion coverage bans and restrictions are harmful, unnecessary, and should be removed.
Reproductive health care, including abortion, continues to be under serious attack. Over the past decade, nearly 500 laws and restrictions have passed intended to limit abortion access. In 2019 alone, 12 U.S. states enacted 25 abortion bans, many of which would ban abortion before a person may know they are pregnant.1 At least 10 states also exploited the COVID-19 pandemic by trying to restrict access to abortion and cut patients off from care.2 The pandemic yet again showed the long-standing structural racism and inequities in our health care system, with communities of color, particularly those in the Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander communities, and Indigenous people facing high rates of infection and death from COVID-19. These disproportionate effects can be largely traced to institutional racism and its impacts. We are ready to work with the Biden Administration to undo harmful abortion access policies that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, as countries work to undo harmful abortion policies, the U.S. remains a barrier to people accessing comprehensive reproductive health care. Globally, there are more than 35 million unsafe abortions each year. Poor conditions and lack of access to effective care following unsafe abortions contributes to eight percent of maternal deaths.3 The Helms Amendment exacerbates this crisis by putting safe abortion care out of reach for those served by U.S. foreign assistance, including through global health, gender-based violence, and humanitarian programs.
We urge you to begin your presidency with a clear statement that discriminatory abortion coverage bans and restrictions have no place in our public policy by eliminating all such restrictions from your FY 2022 budget. This will send a strong message to Congress, the country, and the world that everyone should be able to decide when and how to start a family— regardless of how much money they make, the type of insurance they have, or where they live.
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