US bishops urge Congress to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions  

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Attendees of the 2018 March for Life make their way past the U.S. Capitol building. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2021 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Monday called on Congress to restore prohibitions on federal funding of abortion, as the House considers appropriations bills that could fund abortions both domestically and internationally.

The House Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to mark-up two appropriations bills, for Financial Services and General Government and for the State Department and Foreign Operations, this week. The funding bills currently omit longstanding federal policies that prevent the use of taxpayer funds to pay for elective abortions, including the Helms amendment which bars direct funding of abortions abroad.

The bills come after President Joe Biden, a Catholic, did not include the Hyde amendment in his final budget request to Congress for the 2022 fiscal year. The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding of most elective abortions under Medicaid programs. First passed in 1976, the decades-old policy is not permanent law, however, and must be attached as a rider to budget bills each year in order to take effect.

In a joint statement on Monday, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the bishops’ international justice and peace committee, said that Congress “should not eliminate the long-standing, bipartisan provisions that prevent taxpayer funding of abortions.”

The Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill “currently excludes the Dornan and Smith Amendments,” they said, referring to policies which prohibit federal funding of abortions in the District of Columbia, and federal funding of abortion coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefit program, respectively.

Excluding the Helms Amendment from the State and Foreign Operations bill “would force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the world, running contrary to principles of integral human development,” the bishops stated.

“The Appropriations Committee must re-insert these provisions, and retain all life-saving, Hyde-related provisions across the various appropriations bills.”

Pro-abortion groups applauded the exclusion of the funding prohibitions from the bills. In a statement, Christian LoBue, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s chief campaigns and advocacy officer, said that “for too long, anti-choice policies like the Helms Amendment and the global gag rule have pushed time-sensitive, essential care out of reach for pregnant people and families across the globe.”

The “global gag rule” is a term used by abortion advocates for the Mexico City Policy, executive policy which prevents U.S. global health assistance from funding international NGOs that provide or perform abortions. President Biden repealed the policy in January.

Pro-life groups said the funding prohibitions such as the Hyde and Helms amendments preserve the conscience rights of taxpayers and protect unborn children.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement on Monday, “Emboldened by the White House, pro-abortion Democrats in Congress will stop at nothing to expand abortion on demand, paid for by taxpayers, at home and abroad.”

“Biden-Pelosi Democrats’ push to make the U.S. the world’s top exporter of abortion is deeply unpopular among Americans, offensive to pro-life nations, and enables human rights atrocities under authoritarian regimes like China’s,” she said.

The bishops said on Monday that ensuring tax dollars do not fund elective abortion procedures is “a consensus policy that is supported by a majority of Americans – including low-income women, and women of color.”

The bishops called on Congress to “protect taxpayers from having to pay for the evil of abortion, and to instead use our tax dollars for the common good and welfare of all.”

A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll released in January revealed that 77% of respondents said they either “oppose” or “strongly oppose” tax dollars funding abortions internationally. Nearly six-in-ten respondents, 58%, said they opposed taxpayer-funded abortions in the United States.

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