Senate appropriators proposed last week an end to a four-decade-old provision that restricts the government from funding abortions and, in turn, could expand reproductive care for military service members and federal employees.
The proposal is part of a set of bills to fund the government through fiscal 2023, which includes $850 billion for national security when taking into account the Defense appropriations bill, military construction spending and some military-related Energy Department funds.
That number is well over the Biden administration’s $813 billion request for national security and outpaces the House Appropriations Committee and both Armed Services Committees’ bills on spending.
Hyde and Weldon Amendments
The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill would repeal both the Hyde and Weldon Amendments, two provisions that have been a thorn for pro-choice advocates and a bulwark for anti-abortion activists.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June is having the immediate and devastating impact of limiting or banning access to abortion care in nearly half of states across the country,” the bill’s explanatory statement states. “Therefore, the fiscal year 2023 bill removes the harmful Hyde and Weldon Amendments and invests in programs to safeguard and bolster access to and coverage of women’s reproductive healthcare and preventive health services.”
The two amendments clamp down on federal entities’ ability to provide or pay for abortion care. The Hyde Amendment restricts federal funding for abortions and prevents federal facilities from performing them except in cases of rape, incest or harm to the parent. The Weldon Amendment keeps the government from withholding funds from providers, facilities or insurance companies.
Repealing those amendments would open up abortion access to a broad swath of people relying on the government for healthcare.
“The Defense Department would be free to implement new abortion policies and TRICARE eligibility,” Sean Timmons, managing partner focused on military issues at the law firm Tully Rinckey, told Federal News Network. “Title 10 might have some overlapping problems, and may have to be additionally repealed, but for the most part the Pentagon would be able to implement the policies it wanted.”
That would open up abortion care to service members and some civilians at military treatment facilities, even in states where abortion is outlawed.
The repeals would allow TRICARE to pay for abortions, as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Hospitals run by the VA and Indian Health Service would also be able to provide care.
Defense spending bill
Outside of the abortion issues, the Senate Defense appropriations bill is making aggressive increases to the president’s request in four main areas: inflation, space, supply chain and infrastructure.
The bill includes $53 billion to deal with inflation for acquisition programs, goods and services and higher compensation costs. Another $10 billion is budgets to address price escalation caused by unexpected rises in costs for fuel housing and incentive pay.
“This bill modernizes our armed forces to address the evolving threats of the 21st century, ensuring the Defense Department is able to compete with China and other adversaries across the globe,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). It includes additional funds to help address the consequences of inflation, which has impacted government programs at every level – both defense and non-defense.”
The bill supports a 4.6% pay increase for service members, on par with other Congressional legislation.
The bill helps DoD push forward its emphasis on space with $2.2 billion for the fielding of resilient space capabilities. That includes low-earth orbit missile warning and tracking, training for the Space Force and on-board defensive measures for space assets.
The bill appropriates $4.7 billion for infrastructure, including $2.1 billion for facilities modernization and sustainment and $1.8 billion for modernization of testing and evaluation infrastructure for things like hypersonics and directed energy.
The legislation also allocates $300 million more for public shipyards.
For supply chain, the Senate Appropriations Committee wants to expand industrial capacity for missile procurement programs and better government-owned ammunition facilities.
The bill adds $3 billion to increase readiness, $1.2 billion for medical research and $277 million for cyber and artificial intelligence initiatives.