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USCCB implores Congress to restore pro-life policies to spending bills

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by CNA Staff

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2021 / 16:00 pm

A proposed federal spending bill is the most extreme pro-abortion funding bill in the history of the United States, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a July 14 statement.

The current Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill does not include the “Hyde Amendment,” which bars federal funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid. The Hyde Amendment was first introduced in 1976, and has been part of federal budgets every year since.

“This is the most extreme pro-abortion appropriations bill that we have seen, effectively mandating healthcare professionals to participate in abortion, and forcing American citizens to pay for abortion with their tax dollars,” said the statement, signed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas. Cardinal Dolan chairs the USCCB’s religious liberty committee, while Archbishop Naumann chairs the USCCB’s pro-life committee.

“By eliminating the Hyde Amendment, and other Hyde-like policies, the financial fruits of Americans’ labor would advance the destruction of the smallest, most vulnerable humans,” the bishops said.

The draft LHHS appropriations bill – which provides funding of certain federal agencies and programs – was introduced this week and advanced by a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The full committee is expected to consider the bill later this week.

The bishops also criticized the removal of conscience protections for healthcare workers from the legislation.

The Hyde Amendment, as well as similar pro-life “riders,” must be attached each year to federal budget bills in order to take effect. The Weldon Amendment is one of these policies, establishing pro-life conscience protections in health care. The amendment blocks federal funding of state and local governments that discriminate against healthcare workers and institutions who refuse to provide, cover, pay for, or refer for abortions.

“Eliminating the Weldon Amendment would be an egregious violation of conscience rights by forcing individuals and entities to perform, pay for, or otherwise participate in an abortion against their beliefs,” the bishops said. “Abortion is not healthcare nor a ‘human service’ to anyone.”

The bishops urged members of the House Appropriations Committee to restore the Hyde and Weldon amendments to the legislation, which is expected to be considered by the full committee later this week.

“These bills include many other provisions and funding for critically-needed services that we support. Americans’ tax dollars should be used for the common good and welfare of all, not to finance abortion or force Americans to violate deeply-held beliefs,” the bishops stated.

The Hyde Amendment has historically received staunch opposition by some in Congress and the White house, with President Bill Clinton excluding the policy from his budget request to Congress in 1993 and some House Democrats working to keep it out of budget legislation that year.

However, an amended version of the policy passed Congress and was signed into law by Clinton. Members of Congress from both parties have over the years voted for budget bills including Hyde Amendment language, and presidents of both parties have signed the bills.

Current President Joe Biden (D) once supported the Hyde Amendment as a U.S. senator, even explaining his support for it in a letter to a constituent in 1994. However, as a 2020 presidential candidate, Biden reversed his support for the policy in June 2019 amid pressure from pro-abortion groups.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform included, for the first time, a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment. The party again called for its repeal in 2020.

The bishops are encouraging Catholics, and others of good will, to contact their legislators and request that the Hyde Amendment once again be included in the appropriations bill.

“The lives of millions of vulnerable children, and the well-being of their mothers, depend on our advocacy,” they said.

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