The League signed onto a letter to the President urging him to ensure that the Weldon Amendment is not included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget. The Weldon Amendment is an appropriations rider that threatens the loss of federal funding for federal agencies and programs or state and local governments that require health insurance plans, health care institutions, or health care professionals to cover, provide, or refer for abortions.
February 1, 2024
The Honorable Joe Biden
President of the United States
Dear President Biden:
We, the undersigned organizations that support reproductive health, rights, and justice, write to urge you to ensure that the harmful Weldon Amendment is not included in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget. The Weldon Amendment is a poison pill budget rider that, for far too long, has misused religion to intimidate states that seek to protect abortion care by threatening critical federal health funding. The Weldon Amendment also emboldens health care entities to deny patients abortion care and coverage, prioritizing health care providers’ personal beliefs over patient care. As states grapple with the fallout from the erroneous and devastating Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, we must safeguard protections for people who need abortion care and eliminate policies that allow or encourage denials of abortion care. To that end, your Administration must strike the Weldon Amendment from your annual budget.
Since FY 2005, Weldon has been attached to the Hyde Amendment in the annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill. The Weldon Amendment is deceptively written to prohibit “discrimination” against health care entities—including hospitals and health insurance plans, as well as individual nurses and doctors—that refuse to provide, cover, pay for, or refer for abortion. The Weldon Amendment is so pernicious because it has been used to threaten policymakers with the loss of critical federal health dollars for advancing policies that protect and expand abortion care and coverage at the federal, state, and local levels. For example, in December 2020 – during a pandemic – the Trump Administration attempted to strip California of $800 million in federal Medicaid funding annually because state law ensures residents have insurance coverage of abortion.
The Weldon Amendment also encourages health care providers to leave patients without the care they need, allowing individuals and entities to put their personal beliefs ahead of patient care. There are no provisions in the Weldon Amendment to protect patient access to abortion services. At a minimum, this causes confusion about the application of other federal laws that protect patient access to care. By its own terms, then, the Weldon Amendment poses tremendous injury to patients.
The Weldon Amendment also has been used by hostile administrations to expand refusals of care: both the Bush Administration and the Trump Administration issued rules that relied on Weldon and other refusal of care laws to allow virtually any entity involved in health care to deny patients care and even information about care. Fortunately, many harmful provisions of these policies were blocked and reversed, including during the Obama Administration, by federal courts, and now by your Administration with the recent rule, “Safeguarding the Rights of Conscience as Protected by Federal Statutes.” But efforts to expand the reach of the Weldon Amendment continue; most recently, anti-abortion lawmakers in the House attempted to create a private right of action that would allow virtually anyone to bring a case in federal court for an “actual or threatened violation” of the Weldon Amendment. We must eliminate the Weldon Amendment permanently to ensure that dangerous policies expanding its reach are not enacted in the future.
The need to eliminate the harmful Weldon Amendment is critical in this moment, as more states rush to ban abortion, leaving millions of people across the country without abortion access and forcing them to travel out of state to seek care. In this ongoing reproductive health care crisis, it is critical that states have the ability to protect their residents and those coming to their state by enacting policies that expand abortion access. The Weldon Amendment hampers these efforts. At the same time, the impact of refusals of care has only worsened following the Dobbs decision, as reports of patients being turned away for essential medical care and urgent medical interventions continue to arise. Eliminating Weldon will help remove any confusion or purposeful obfuscation about the application of other federal laws and empower states where abortion is still legal to protect and expand access to care.
Eliminating the Weldon Amendment is not only critical as a matter of policy, it is also popular with voters. This was evident even before the Dobbs decision—a July 2021 poll in battleground congressional districts found that 6 in 10 voters oppose allowing health care providers to refuse treatment to a woman seeking an abortion because of religious or moral beliefs. More recently, in a June 2022 poll of likely 2022 voters, the majority opposed the idea that institutions, including insurance companies (66% of respondents), employers (63%), and hospitals (59%), should be able to refuse abortion care based on personal or religious beliefs. Nearly two-thirds recognized that refusal of care laws put patients’ health and lives in danger.
Eliminating the Weldon Amendment is crucial for patients and states and important to the public. Fortunately, both the House and Senate in FY 2022 and 2023 made historic progress by removing the harmful Weldon and Hyde Amendments from their Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bills. Your Administration must similarly demonstrate its commitment to protect abortion rights and serve the will of the people by eliminating the Weldon Amendment.
See Attached Letter for Signatories