In the aftermath of the U.S. House passing the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act on Friday evening, Democratic majorities in Congress are turning their attention to the Build Back Better Act, the second of President Biden’s major campaign-promised legislation. While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) lauded “the bipartisan efforts that led to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” and have praised some parts of Biden’s social spending legislation, the USCCB stated that several abortion provisions in the Build Back Better Act make it “completely unacceptable,” according to a letter to Congress.
The Build Back Better Act — which Democrats argue will invest in family-supporting policies, combat climate change, expand health care coverage, and offer access to early childhood education — includes some initiatives, like a national paid family leave policy, that pro-life groups have said would offer vital support to families who fear a new baby would create financial hardship. However, the USCCB has raised the alarm about other portions of the Build Back Better Act, which has yet to be passed by the Senate.
The bishops’ statement minced no words when it came to the disappointing expanded access for abortion: “[I]t is completely unacceptable that the current House version of the Build Back Better Act expands taxpayer funding of abortion. We have been consistent in our position and reiterate that it would be a calamity if the important and life-affirming provisions in this bill were accompanied by provisions facilitating and funding the destruction of unborn human life. No proposal to support individuals needing affordable health care coverage should compel Americans to pay for the destruction of human life through their tax dollars.”
The latest text of the bill includes a health care affordability fund without any Hyde Amendment protections that would prevent it the taxpayer-funded grants from being used for abortion. The problematic sections of the bill identified by the bishops are 30601 and 30602, which implement expanded health coverage for low-income populations, and which the bishops argue will be used for taxpayer-funded abortion — something that has not been authorized since the Hyde Amendment was first introduced in 1977.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat whose vote is crucial to passage of the bill and who describes himself as pro-life, has called the lack of Hyde Amendment protections a “red line,” according to The Hill, and has indicated the legislation would be “dead on arrival” without it.
The USCCB letter ends by unambiguously calling for action on the Democrats’ pending legislation: “This fundamental problem of expanded taxpayer funding of abortion in the Build Back Better Act must be remedied before the bill moves forward.”
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