US bishops condemn abortion funding in House-passed spending bill

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Leading U.S. bishops on Thursday opposed the House passage of appropriations bills that fund abortions and exclude some existing conscience protections in health care.

“Funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to kill in violation of their consciences, are grave abuses of human rights,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas on Thursday in a joint statement. Cardinal Dolan is the chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, while Archbishop Naumann chairs the bishops’ pro-life committee.

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. House passed a package of appropriations bills that would provide funding of various government agencies and programs, by a vote of 219-208. No Democrats voted against the legislation, and no Republicans voted for it. Four members did not vote.

Leadership omitted a number of customary pro-life provisions from the bills, allowing for funding of elective abortions and abortion coverage without including provisions that protect some health care workers and groups with conscientious objections to abortion.

Notably missing from the legislation was the Hyde Amendment, first passed by Congress in 1976. The policy, normally enacted as part of federal spending bills, prohibits federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid.

“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,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Naumann stated of the amendment.

The bills also did not include the Weldon, Kemp-Kasten, Dornan, and Smith amendments, a series of policies similar to the Hyde amendment which restrict funding of abortion or abortion coverage in other areas of spending.

In particular, pro-life leaders recognized the Weldon Amendment as an important means of enforcing conscience protections for health care workers and groups opposed to abortion. The policy places conditions on funding of federal programs and state and local governments; the funded entities cannot discriminate against individuals or organizations for refusing to perform, participate in, pay for, or cover abortions.

“The injustice in HR 4502 extends to removing conscience protections and exemptions for healthcare providers who believe abortion is wrong, or whose faith drives them to serve and heal lives, instead of taking them,” the bishops stated on Thursday.

The current Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, was in 2020 found to be in violation of the Weldon Amendment by the Trump administration while he was still attorney general of California. Becerra had defended California’s mandate that employers provide abortion coverage in employee health plans; the mandate extended to a group of Catholic religious, the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit.

The spending bills do contain good provisions, the bishops said on Thursday, but their funding of abortions is inexcusable.

“To be certain, this bill includes provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms. As we have said before, ‘being “right” in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life,’” they stated.

Pro-life leaders also warned that the appropriations bills would coerce health care providers on the matter of abortion. The legislation forbids Medicare Advantage funding of health care providers and institutions that refuse to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortions –if the HHS Secretary denies them participation in the program for that reason.

In the bill’s section on the Title X federal family planning program, it requires clinics receiving Title X funds to provide pregnant women with information on abortion, as well as information on other options such as prenatal care and adoption. Under the bill, Title X recipients must refer for abortions upon request.

Earlier in the week, the House passed an appropriations bill for the State Department and international programs that allows direct funding of international abortions and pro-abortion groups.

It would permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, executive policy that forbids funding of international pro-abortion NGOs in U.S. global health assistance.

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