Rubio urges that Biden administration honor Hyde amendment regarding abortion travel

2019 12 05 Senator Marco Rubio. | Office of Sen. Rubio

Florida Senator Marco Rubio urged Tuesday that the Biden administration clarify that it will not pay for federal employees’ sick leave while traveling for an abortion.

“The federal government has no business promoting the killing of unborn children,” he wrote in a July 5 letter addressed to Kiran Ahuja, the director of Office of Personnel Management (OPM). “I demand that the agency clarify that the federal government will not provide sick leave for travel related to abortion services.”

In the letter, the Republican senator expressed his concern that providing sick leave for employees obtaining abortions could violate the Hyde Amendment. The legislative provision bars federal funding of abortion, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. 

The Biden administration, he claimed, is “even willing to violate longstanding federal law prohibiting the use of taxpayer monies to fund abortions or abortion services.”

The OPM, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, released guidance for federal employees using sick leave crossing state lines for “medical care.”

Rubio wrote in his letter, “It is obvious given the timing of the announcement that the purpose of the OPM guidance is to facilitate federal employees traveling out-of-state to obtain an abortion.”

The OPM document omits words such as “abortion” and “reproductive health,” Rubio noted, and instead says, “an employee may find it necessary to travel longer distances, including out of state, to obtain medical care” and “[i]n such instances, sick leave may be used to cover necessary travel time.” 

“One is left to believe these phrases were intentionally omitted in this guidance by lawyers in the executive branch to circumvent Congressionally-mandated Hyde protections,” the senator wrote.

He cited President Joe Biden’s having said that “if any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman’s exercising her basic right to travel [for abortion], I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack.”

The Hyde Amendment was first introduced in 1976, and has been part of federal budgets every year since. It must be attached each year to federal budget bills. Biden excluded the Hyde Amendment from his budget request to Congress for the 2022 fiscal year.

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