Eight Florida U.S. House Democrats push for reproductive rights measure

Pro-choice protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court last summer. NBC News screenshot

South Florida U.S. Rep Lois Frankel is the most recent member of the Florida House Democratic delegation to sign on as a co-sponsor to a measure that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 law which bans federal funding for abortion.

Eight of the 13-member Florida House Democratic delegation are co-sponsors to the bill, called the EACH Woman Act. The measure says that the federal government “shall not prohibit, restrict or otherwise inhibit insurance coverage of abortion care by state or local government or by private health plans.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized a woman’s right to an abortion in its landmark 1973 ruling, the federal government did pay for abortions through Medicaid for a few years. That changed after Congress passed the Hyde Amendment in 1976. It bans federal funding for abortion, except in cases where a woman has been raped, is a victim of incest, or ending the pregnancy is necessary to save the woman’s life. It’s been reapproved annually by Congress ever since.

Every Democrat running for president in 2020 has been calling for its repeal, with the latest being former Vice President Joe Biden, who reversed his long held stance on the issue last week, saying that “circumstances have changed.”

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability…to exercise their constitutional protected right,” Biden said at a Democratic National Committee fundraising event in Atlanta.

Reproductive  rights have become a major issue in the early months of the Democratic campaign as an increasing number of states, particularly in the South, have been passing restrictions on a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Four states passed so-called “heartbeat” bills this year, banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

And Alabama passed a measure (scheduled to go into effect next January) that would make abortion at any part of a pregnancy illegal, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Doctors who perform the procedure could be subject up to 99 years in prison.

“For too long, the Hyde Amendment has disproportionately affected poor women, young women, and women of color,” South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has previously said. “All women should have the right to choose, and we need to make sure they have the opportunity to exercise it.”

In addition to Wasserman Schultz and Frankel, the other Florida co-sponsors to the EACH Woman Act include Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Al Lawson, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Donna Shalala.

The odds of Congress overturning the Hyde Amendment aren’t likely, even if Democrats win back the White House next year. Republicans currently control the votes in the U.S. Senate, and even if Democrats were to retake that chamber next year, they are unlikely to capture the 60 votes necessary to overcome GOP filibusters.

And public opinion doesn’t support the idea.  A POLITICO poll conducted in 2016 found that only 36 percent of likely voters want to overturn the ban on Medicaid paying for abortion with federal funds, with 58 percent opposing. A YouGov poll, also taken in 2016, found that 55 percent of Americans supported the Hyde Amendment.

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