In an open letter released Sunday, Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden urged him to “honor his commitment” and include the Hyde Amendment in Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending package, writing “we feel used and betrayed.” The letter states:
We are very disappointed about the COVID-19 relief package’s exclusion of the Hyde Amendment, a longstanding bipartisan policy that prevents taxpayer funding for abortion. We’re even more upset that the Biden administration is supporting this bill. As pro-life leaders in the evangelical community, we publicly supported President Biden’s candidacy with the understanding that there would be engagement [with] us on the issue of abortion and particularly the Hyde Amendment …We feel used and betrayed and have no intention of simply watching these kinds of efforts happen from the sidelines.
During an Atlanta Democratic National Convention Committee event in 2019, Biden announced that he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment—which has been included on a bipartisan basis in federal spending bills since 1976. The Hyde Amendment restricts federal taxpayer dollars from funding many abortions.
“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” Biden said in May 2019 in a video posted by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Our volunteer Nina asked Joe Biden whether, as president, he would lift the Hyde amendment, which bans federal insurance coverage of abortion.
— ACLU (@ACLU) May 8, 2019
This was a major reversal for the then-nominee, given Biden claimed in his 2008 book “Promises to Keep” that “I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than thirty years. I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding.” Even in June 2019, Biden’s campaign claimed he still supported the amendment.
Regardless of Biden’s change of heart, more than 5,000 “pro-life evangelicals” endorsed him for the presidency in October 2020. The coalition noted that “we disagree with Vice President Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion” but still claimed “Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump.”
“Knowing that the most common reason women give for abortion is the financial difficulty of another child, we appreciate a number of Democratic proposals that would significantly alleviate that financial burden: accessible health services for all citizens, affordable childcare, a minimum wage that lifts workers out of poverty,” the October letter stated. “For these reasons, we believe that on balance, Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore, even as we continue to urge different policies on abortion, we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president.”
The Sunday letter comes after Senate Democrats rejected Sen. James Lankford’s, R-Okla., effort to include the Hyde Amendment in the $1.9 trillion spending package in which allocations have nothing to do with coronavirus. Democrat Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted in favor of Lankford’s amendment, likely aware that it would ultimately fail given their colleagues’ positions.
Prior to this, 48 Republican senators pledged to oppose any spending bill without the Hyde Amendment in February. Two hundred Republican House members signed a joint letter addressed to Congress in January demanding the Hyde Amendment continue to be respected.
“We call on President Biden to honor his commitment to us and immediately demand the House of Representatives apply the Hyde language to the American Relief package,” the Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden coalition continues. “This is no time for radical change to longstanding abortion policy.”
It is unclear what “commitment” Biden had provided the evangelical coalition, given his vocal denouncement of the Hyde Amendment before assuming the presidency. The letter was signed by Dr. Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller Seminary, as well as Ronald J. Sider, president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action.