The Hyde Amendment is the long-standing bipartisan method used to prevent federal funds for abortions except in rape, incest, or medical emergency cases. Like virtually every spending bill enacted since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, all COVID relief measures passed in 2020 included the amendment.
The massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed by Democrats in March 2021 did not include the Hyde Amendment. Pro-life lawmakers and advocates warned at the time that there were several funds in the bill that could pay for elective abortions without the amendment.
Now, Democrats in Harris County, Texas, are considering the prospects for funding abortions with the COVID funds just as it was warned. The group has been seeking advice on attacking the Texas Heartbeat Act signed into law earlier this year by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has been advised now by policy analysts that the county can spend public funds to support abortion advocates and possibly directly fund abortion procedures. That funding would come from the COVID relief bill allocation of $915 million to Harris County.
The two Republicans on the Harris County Commissioners Court and pro-life advocates reacted harshly to the proposal, with one saying that the federal relief funding was intended to save lives and not to take lives.
The memo came from the Commissioners Court Analyst’s Office and said there are “no limitations” on using the federal money for services “ancillary to abortion care.”
In March, most of the Senate favored including the Hyde Amendment in the COVID relief bill. Still, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the amendment needed 60 votes to be included as a rider on the bill. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) were the only Democrats to join the 50 Senate Republicans in favor of adding the amendment.
As the Senate now considers Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” budget reconciliation spending bill, Joe Manchin remains steadfast in his demand that the Hyde Amendment be included in that bill, or he will not vote for any version of it. Manchin has called the amendment his “red line.” The spending bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the House pass last month does not include the Hyde Amendment.