Republicans Are Quietly Trying to Block Biden’s Abortion Protections

Republicans Are Quietly Trying to Block Biden’s Abortion Protections

Republican lawmakers aren’t waiting for the next Trump administration to begin chipping away at Biden-era protections for reproductive rights. As they allocate next year’s funding to federal agencies, hard-right legislators on the House Appropriations Committee are taking cues from the right-wing Heritage Foundation, the think tank behind Project 2025, as well as the conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers helped draft the anti-abortion law the Supreme Court used to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Politicians often attempt to use must-pass budget bills to push through unrelated, ideological provisions they know the average person will never hear about, because the bills are necessary to keep the government open. Riders and cuts in the Republicans’ budget this year seek to block funding to enforce President Joe Biden’s executive order protecting emergency medical treatment for pregnant women, funding for hospitals that provide abortion training, and funding to implement abortion-related provisions of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. 

Republicans on the committee “have hijacked the debate over government funding by tucking policy riders into spending bills that harm women, restrict abortion, and make women’s health care inaccessible,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member on the Appropriations committee, said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “The policy riders and funding cuts in their bill completely abandon women and young families and gut support for the health of mothers and children,” she added.

Two years ago, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling nullifying the federal right to abortion, Biden issued an executive order clarifying that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA — an ‘80s-era federal law designed to ensure patients wouldn’t be turned away from hospitals that accepted Medicare — covers emergency abortion care. The move helped ensure doctors could treat pregnant people in medical emergencies without fear of running afoul of local abortion laws. The Supreme Court seemed poised, earlier this year, to rule against the Biden administration on its interpretation of EMTALA — but instead it punted, restoring (at least temporarily) the ability of doctors in Idaho to stabilize the health of pregnant women who arrive at their ERs, rather than have them airlifted to a neighboring state.  

Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, sent out a bulletin reminding doctors and hospitals last week that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s EMTALA decision, they remain obligated to provide ”stabilizing care for patients suffering emergency medical conditions, which might include abortion care in certain situations.”

But the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education has unveiled budget language that asserts “none of the funds made available by this act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce” the executive order on EMTALA. If that language is approved by the full committee in a hearing on Wednesday, it could set up a fight over the provision — either on the House floor itself or between leaders on the Appropriations Committee in the House and Senate. (Last year, many of the Republicans’ most controversial reproductive rights riders were stripped from the final budget.)

It’s not just EMTALA that is coming under fire in the House GOP’s new budget: A separate provision, also proposed by the subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, would block funding for any hospital that trains doctors to perform or assist with abortions if the hospital “provides or requires such training for any participant in such program without the participant first voluntarily electing to opt in to undergo such training,” or if the hospital “subjects any participant in such program to discrimination” if they decline to opt in.


The House Republican budget includes other programs that Republicans have picked fights over in the past, like funding for Planned Parenthood, funding for Title X clinics, and funding for medical research that involves fetal tissue. In addition to cutting funding for the Office on Women’s Health, this year’s Republican budget would fully eliminate the Title X Family Planning Program, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, and Healthy Start, the federal program meant to address infant mortality. 

On Tuesday, Republicans on the committee approved language that specifically bars funding from being used to enforce a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a rule approved earlier this year as it relates to accommodations for pregnant workers to attend appointments or take time off after an elective abortion. Revoking the rule was a “massive priority” for the next Republican administration, a former Trump appointee told The Washington Post earlier this month. 

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