August 6, 2021

Editorial

Budget must continue to protect unborn and conscience of health care providers

Is there anyone in society more vulnerable than the unborn child in a mother’s womb? Apparently, it depends on whom you ask.

In the minds of the majority of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we received an unjust answer last week for this vulnerable group.

Late on July 29, the House voted 219-208 in favor of H.R. 4502, a package of appropriations bills that currently excludes the Hyde, Weldon and Helms amendments and other longstanding, bipartisan-supported pro-life language.

The Hyde Amendment, first enacted with strong bipartisan support 45 years ago, outlaws federal tax dollars from directly funding abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.

Congress must reauthorize the Hyde Amendment annually as an attachment to the appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. Hyde language also has been part of a dozen spending bills for decades. Until this year, Hyde has been reauthorized every year since 1976.

Like the U.S. bishops, we believe eliminating these provisions will force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions and will have the effect of forcing health care providers to perform and refer for abortion against their deeply held beliefs, as well as forcing employers and insurers to cover and pay for abortion.

“The House has voted in a way that is completely out of step with the will of the American people who overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer-funded abortion. The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives since its enactment. Without it, millions of poor women in desperate circumstances will make the irrevocable decision to take the government up on its offer to end the life of their child,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a joint statement.

The package of spending bills now approved by the House, the bishops said, “includes provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms,” but “as we have said before, ‘being right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.”

The injustice of this bill goes beyond that, the bishops noted, because it “extends to removing conscience protections and exemptions for health care providers who believe abortion is wrong, or whose faith drives them to serve and heal lives, instead of taking them,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Naumann said, referring to the Weldon Amendment, first passed in 2005.

“Funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives and forcing people to kill in violation of their consciences are grave abuses of human rights,” they said.

In a separate vote on July 28, the House voted 217-212 to pass the appropriations bill for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, H.R. 4373, without the Helms Amendment. Called “the Hyde Amendment for the rest of the world,” it has prohibited using U.S. taxpayer funds to directly pay for abortions in other countries since 1973.

The House’s version of the bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate, where we pray lawmakers take action to add these life-related measures back to the federal budget for the 2022 fiscal year.

As people of faith who value all human life from conception to natural death, it is hard to comprehend how many of our political leaders—including some who are Catholic—fail to protect the unborn, and support legislation that forces health care providers to act against their consciences.

“We call on the Senate to redress this evil in H.R. 4502, and for Congress to ultimately pass appropriations bills that fully support and protect human dignity, and the most vulnerable among us,” said Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Naumann.

We must do our part as well. Reach out to Senators Mike Braun (cutt.ly/MikeBraun) and Todd Young (cutt.ly/ToddYoung) to let them know they must correct the wrongs in the House’s proposed legislation. They can also be reached through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Remind our senators this legislation has saved millions of lives. We pray that it is able to save millions more.

—Mike Krokos

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