Following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, President Joe Biden’s administration announced Thursday he would rescind a policy that seeks to curb abortions worldwide.
A White House fact sheet said Biden would rescind what is known as the Mexico City Policy, first adopted by former President Ronald Reagan. The policy bars foreign organizations that provide information, referrals or services related to abortions, including abortions themselves, from receiving taxpayer funds.
Former President Donald Trump had made reviving the policy — which is generally implemented by Republican presidents and rescinded by Democratic ones — one of the first acts of his presidency.
“Across the country and around the world, people — particularly women, Black, Indigenous and other people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and those with low incomes — have been denied access to reproductive health care,” the Biden White House said.
“President Biden is also issuing a Presidential Memorandum to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care. The memorandum reflects the policy of the Biden-Harris Administration to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally,” the fact sheet said.
“Like memoranda issued by President Clinton and President Obama before him, it immediately rescinds the global gag rule, also referred to as the Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-profits that provide abortion counseling or referrals from receiving U.S. funding.”
“President Biden’s memorandum also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program,” the fact sheet said.
The Title X program, which provides health care to the poor, does not directly fund abortions. The Trump administration blocked recipients of Title X funds from referring patients to abortion providers and also restricted the grants that abortion-providing recipients of Title X funding could receive.
Changing the rules for Title X can be done through the executive branch via a rule-making process.
Planned Parenthood President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson called the actions “a great start, one that will increase access and meaningfully impact people’s lives, but I’ll emphasize again, this is a start,” according to CNN.
Marcela Howell, president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, told reporters she hopes to re-frame the discussion around abortion.
“The reality is that all of us have been fighting stigma around abortion, and if we cannot get the administration and members of Congress to actually use the word abortion care, then that furthers the stigma,” she said. “And we believe that it is a safe and legal procedure that women have accessed at various points in their lives and the stigma around it needs to be eliminated.”
Biden has said he would support an end to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from funding abortion. Abolishing the Hyde Amendment is also supported by many congressional Democrats.
Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut has her eyes set on getting rid of the amendment, according to NBC News.
“The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy,” she said last month, claiming it hurts rural and low-income women.
But Republicans in the House and Senate have vowed to fight back.
I joined 199 of my colleagues in defense of the Hyde Amendment, which protects the rights of American taxpayers opposed to publicly funded abortions.
— Congresswoman Kat Cammack (@RepKatCammack) January 28, 2021
Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said Senate Republicans will not rubber-stamp the will of House Democrats.
Although with the use of Vice President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaker, Democrats can win Senate votes that require a simple majority, they would need 60 votes to choke off a filibuster.
“The Republican caucus would resist it,” Shelby told NBC last month. “We’ve had the Hyde Amendment a long time. And I think it’s pretty clearly embedded in the fabric of our legislation. I support the Hyde Amendment.”
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