Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday warned the Biden administration that its newly released guidance assuring federal workers that sick leave may be used for out-of-state travel had better not apply to abortions.
The Florida Republican pointed to the Office of Personnel Management’s recently posted advisory “Availability of Sick Leave for Travel to Access Medical Care,” which says federal employees may apply sick leave to out-of-state travel “to obtain medical care” for themselves or family members.
“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,” Mr. Rubio said in a letter to OPM director Kiran Ahuja.
He referred to the Hyde Amendment, the decades-old legislative prohibition against the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.
“The federal government has no business promoting the killing of unborn children,” Mr. Rubio said. “I demand that the agency clarify that the federal government will not provide sick leave for travel related to abortion services.”
The OPM guidance was issued June 27, three days after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, according to the publication Government Executive.
“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,” said Mr. Rubio.
The department’s answers to “frequently asked questions” included explaining how to apply for sick leave and noting that agencies may advance sick days to employees who have not accrued enough time to cover long-distance trips.
“While such travel will generally be short distances — for example, to and from a local doctor’s office or hospital — an employee may find it necessary to travel longer distances, including out of state, to obtain medical care,” the OPM guidance said. “In such instances, sick leave may be used to cover necessary travel time.”
Mr. Rubio pointed out that the document nowhere includes the words “abortion” or “reproductive services,” which he characterized as a legal dodge.
“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,” he said.
Sen. Rubio urged the Biden Administration to address potential Hyde Amendment violations regarding abortion travel.https://t.co/GrVP4ObqNX
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) July 5, 2022
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the health-insurance plan for federal workers, is prevented by the Hyde Amendment from covering the cost of abortion procedures.
Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, President Biden said he would defend the option of traveling from states with tougher abortion restrictions to those with lenient laws.
“As the Attorney General has made clear, women must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need. And my administration will defend that bedrock right,” Mr. Biden said in his June 24 remarks.
“If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman’s exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack,” Mr. Biden said.
At least two dozen private companies, including Amazon, Meta and Disney, have announced that they will cover travel expenses for workers seeing abortions out of state.