Joe Biden has been sworn in president of the United States with a Deratic administration diametrically opposed to the outgoing administration of Donald Trump. This will inevitably mean a radical turn on a hot-button issue: abortion. Reports indicate that Biden is ready to eliminate the anti-abortion measures carried forward by the Trump Administration.
According to NBC News, Biden is “poised to roll back several of the Trump administration’s most restrictive sexual and reproductive health policies, including limits on abortion.”
This is, broadly speaking, one of the most divergent points between Trump and Biden. The former pushed forward several anti-abortion measures that could come to an end.
“We have a lot of work to do to undo the damage over the last four years,” said Planned Parenthood President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson.
Biden, who identifies as a Catholic, has changed his position on abortion a lot throughout his career. In 2019, after facing criticism from progressive Democratic voters, he dropped his support for the Hyde Amendment, which is a longstanding policy restricting federal funding for abortions.
He also promised to pass a bill to protect the provisions of Roe v Wade and to fight state policies that limit access to abortion, as reported by NBC.
In summary, there are four issues regarding abortion where Biden will roll back measures imposed by Trump and, in addition, employ expansions to facilitate access: The Mexico City policy, The Title X Program, The contraceptive coverage mandate, and the Hyde Amendment.
Reagan’s policy under threat
Former President Ronald Reagan implemented the Mexico City policy and banned foreign organizations receiving family planning assistance from the United States from providing information, referrals, or services related to abortion.
The policy has been rescinded by Democratic presidents and restored by Republicans. Trump, in addition to restoring it, also expanded it by applying restrictions to nearly all federal health care assistance worldwide.
There was much criticism to Trump for this expansion of restrictions and the hard line against abortion, however, he also had much support from the most conservative and religious citizens of the country.
Under Biden, this policy, in addition to being rescinded, could also be in danger of disappearing altogether if the administration heeds the pleas of abortion activists and advocates who are calling on Congress to pass the Global HER Act, which would permanently ban the rule.
Should the White House support this, given the Democratic majority in Congress, Reagan’s measure could be buried for good.
Eliminating Trump’s policy against the Title X Program
With respect to the Title X Program, – a 50-year-old program that assists clinics serving low-income and uninsured people in the U.S. with “family planning” issues, or, in other words, “providing grants to providers that fund services such as contraception, pregnancy testing and sexually transmitted disease testing” – Biden is expected to roll back the Trump administration’s 2019 move to prohibit clinics in the program from referring people to abortion providers or performing abortion procedures with other funding.
As expected, following the Trump administration’s move, the number of clinics and patients served by the program declined. A quarter of the Title X Program’s sub-recipients and sites left the network, including independent clinics and Planned Parenthood.
The program was most affected by the departure of Planned Parenthood, which served 40% of all Title X patients.
According to reports, Biden would roll back the Trump administration’s policy and is going to restore “federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”
Biden and conscience objection and religious liberty
On the contraceptive coverage mandate, the situation is even more delicate, as here conscientious objections and religious freedom enter the debate.
This mandate pertains to the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, required most “private insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays; the requirement increased access to contraceptives and made them affordable for millions of people.”
Trump rolled back the scope of the contraception mandate and allowed any employer with a religious or moral objection to birth control to be exempt from the requirement.
Even, last summer, “the Supreme Court upheld the exemptions in Little Sisters of the Poor v Pennsylvania.”
In this case, the religious organization did not want to include morning-after and abortion pills in their health insurance because of their religious objections, but they were harassed by the Pennsylvania and then the Federal government who wanted to force them to provide them.
The ‘Little Sisters’ prevailed in court, but Biden said that, as president, he would sign an executive order to force them to provide contraceptives and abortifacients.
And this is not new: “The first version of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate offered a limited exclusion only for churches. But Vice President Biden “argued internally for a stronger exemption than was in the initial rule,” according to “Reclaiming Hope,” a memoir by Michael Wear, who worked on faith issues in the White House,” according to information from the Wall Street Journal.
This case is one of the most criticized among Christians and religious liberty advocates, as Biden’s stance is perceived as harassment of conscience and religious freedom and, by extension, the First Amendment.
According to NBC, “Biden said he would restore the Obama-era policy, which exempts only houses of worship but provides an accommodation to other employers who object, allowing their employees and dependents access to contraceptive coverage through their insurance companies or third-party administrators.”
Farewell, Hyde Amendment
Finally, the Hyde Amendment, banned federal programs from paying for abortions except in the case of rape or incest or to save a woman’s life, Biden pledged to end the policy and, to do so, would need congressional approval.
“The Hyde Amendment is an attack on low-income families and an attempt to take away the promise of Roe v Wade. For many, abortion care has been a right in name only and not in practice, because if you can’t afford it, the legal right is moot,” said Kelsey Ryland, co-director of the Campaign for All* Above All Abortion Coverage.
The Bishops Conference’s statement on Biden’s position regarding abortion
Monsignor José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and President of the United States Catholic Bishops Conference, gave a thoughtful statement on Biden’s rise to office.
In it, he wished President Biden the greatest of success and blessings, “I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes.”
A the same time, Gomez did not hold back on abortion, gender and religious liberty, “warning that the Biden administration’s policy agenda would promote ‘moral evils’ on several fronts,” according to the Catholic outlet The Pillar.
In the statement Gomez stressed that it is significant that Biden is the first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith.
“In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions.” Still, the archbishop did not hold back any criticism:
«I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.».
Despite the criticism, and his firm stance, the archbishop opened the doors for a channel of dialogue with the president-elect to deal in depth with this rather complex issue that has been trivialized by almost all strata of society.
“Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will,” Gomez said. “My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families.”
While Biden is the first “Catholic” president in 60 years, the expectation is that his policies and actions will be opposed to the positions advocated by the Church.
The most recent editorial of El American states: “Joe Biden will have failed if instead of healing a wounded country, he allows the untamed impulses of his rather radical party to deepen divisions and hatred. This is why abortion will potentially be among the most consequential issues of his term, and one step toward healing America’s wounds is to listen to conservative voices on the issue of abortion and religious liberty.”