Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is urging the Biden administration to address potential violations to the Hyde Amendment after the Office of Personnel Management announced guidance for federal employees to travel out of state for access to medical care immediately following the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion.
Rubio sent a letter to OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in which he said, “Your newly-released FAQ explicitly notes that ‘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.’ 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 White House seemed to confirm Rubio’s point in a fact sheet it issued today which outlined steps that the Biden administration has taken “to protect access to reproductive health care and defend reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs.” Among the items listed was the OPM sick leave policy. The fact sheet states, “The Office of Personnel Management issued guidance affirming that paid sick leave can be taken to cover absences for travel to obtain reproductive health care.”
Rubio went on to state that the lack of any direct mention of “abortion” in OPM’s guidance for federal employees was “… intentionally omitted in this guidance by lawyers in the executive branch to circumvent Congressionally-mandated Hyde protections…”
He concludes the letter by demanding a policy clarification from OPM, stating, “I demand that the agency clarify that the federal government will not provide sick leave for travel related to abortion services.”
What is the Hyde Amendment?
The Hyde Amendment is a legislative provision which bars federal funds from being used to pay for most abortions. It is named after Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), the Member of Congress who was the primary sponsor.
It was originally passed on September 30, 1976 as part of a bill that overrode a veto of legislation that made appropriations for the Departments of Labor, and Health, Education, and Welfare, and related agencies. The text in the original bill stated, “None of the funds contained in this Act shall be used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.”
It has been modified a few times since then. The most recent version prohibits “…the use of any funds appropriated in the bill for any abortion except, when it is necessary to save the life of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”
Rubio’s Letter to OPM Director Kiran Ahuja
July 5, 2022
Dear Director Ahuja:
I write with concern regarding the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) recently released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document titled, “Availability of Sick Leave for Travel to Access Medical Care.” Shortly after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, President Biden made it clear 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.”
Following this statement, OPM released clarifying guidance, which provides sick leave to federal employees and their families to travel to “receive medical examination or treatment.” Your newly-released FAQ explicitly notes that “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.” 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.
It is noticeable, therefore, given the obvious intent of the guidance, that nowhere in the guidance is the phrase “reproductive services,” “abortion” or any other abortion-related language. 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, which bars federal funds from being used to pay for most abortions. The Biden Administration’s actions and statements over the last several days are focused on undermining pro-life states and now they are even willing to violate longstanding federal law prohibiting the use of taxpayer monies to fund abortions or abortion services.
The federal government has no business promoting the killing of unborn children. I demand that the agency clarify that the federal government will not provide sick leave for travel related to abortion services. I look forward to your prompt response and action on this important matter.