Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) endorsed the Hyde amendment at a St. Louis press conference held on Monday. The provision forbids federal funding of abortions for Medicaid recipientsexcept in the case of narrow exceptions.
McCaskill tried to evade a question about her view of the Hyde amendment before finally endorsing it, the Weekly Standard reports.
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Asked whether she favors a repeal of the amendment, McCaskill initially responded, "My view on that whole topic is we should make sure that we never cut off funding for birth control. Birth control is how we prevent abortions, and that’s what’s been frustrating—my opponent in that he believes that the federal money that helps women access birth control should be cut off, so he’s pretty extreme."
When pressed to say whether or not she would vote to repeal it, McCaskill said, "I do not think that it is something that we should be spending federal money on," referring to taxpayer funding of Medicaid abortions.
The Hyde Amendment has blocked Medicaid funding for abortion services since 1976; the amendment was later altered to allow for funding in cases when continuing the pregnancy will endanger the woman’s life (1981), and when the pregnancy results from rape or incest (1994).
Planned Parenthood and NARAL, two groups which support McCaskill, want to repeal the Hyde amendment.
McCaskill's voting record raises questions about her newly announced opposition to federal funding of abortions for Medicaid recipients:
While McCaskill has never voted specifically on repealing the Hyde amendment as it applies to Medicaid, she did vote against permanently applying the Hyde amendment to a smaller health care program (the Indian Health Service) in 2008. Nine Democratic senators, including some who described themselves as "pro-choice," voted in favor of that measure.
McCaskill also voted for Obamacare, which provides taxpayer-funding for insurance plans that cover elective abortions. She has voted to keep federal "family planning" funding for Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America.
The 2016 Democratic platform for the first time called for the repeal of the Hyde amendment, a shift Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) called "crazy."
McCaskill has tried to distance herself from her party in the leadup to the midterm elections, releasing an ad in late October that claimed, "Claire's not one of those crazy Democrats." She also criticized fellow Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), despite accepting money from her PAC.
The Democratic incumbent is engaged in a closely contested Senate race against Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, with the RealClearPolitics polling average giving Hawley a slight edge.