As a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill advances in Congress, the U.S. bishops’ conference is once again calling on lawmakers to remove provisions that would expand taxpayer-funded abortion.
On September 17, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the House Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Veterans’ Affairs, and Judiciary Committees for advancing portions of the Build Back Better Act without including language prohibiting federal dollars from going towards abortion coverage.
The Build Back Better Act is legislation intended to implement President Biden’s social and education reforms, such as universal pre-K, investments in green energy, and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. The legislation is unlikely to get Republican support in Congress, leaving Democrats to move the bill through Congress alone using budget reconciliation—a process that expedites the passage of certain budgetary legislation.
In a statement, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, emphasized their support of certain provisions of the legislation enabling access to health care, such as Medicaid expansion proposals, enhanced postpartum coverage, and expanded access to in-home care for family members. They also firmly decried the provisions that would expand taxpayer-funded abortions.
“[T]he legislative text advanced by the two-House committees also funds abortion, the deliberate destruction of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters – those in the womb,” the bishops said in a statement. “This cannot be included. Congress can, and must, turn back from including taxpayer funding of abortion, in the Build Back Better Act. We urge all members of Congress and the Administration to work in good faith to advance important and life-saving healthcare provisions without forcing Americans to pay for the deliberate destruction of unborn human life.”
This is not the first time the USCCB has spoken out against the abortion funding provisions in the reconciliation bill. Five USCCB chairmen articulated their priorities for the reconciliation bill in a September 7 letter to Congress. In the letter, they warned that they would oppose the legislation if taxpayer funding of abortion was included.
“The destruction of human life through abortion is not a form of health care, and taxpayers should not be compelled to fund it,” the letter stated. “It would be a calamity if the important and life affirming provisions in this bill that we support were accompanied by provisions facilitating and funding the destruction of unborn human life. We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to set the lives and health of the born against the unborn, all of whom are our neighbors in need. Should this bill expand taxpayer funding of abortion, the USCCB will oppose it.”
In addition, in advance of the markup of the Build Back Better Act by the two House committees, the USCCB submitted another letter on September 13 to lawmakers calling for the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment in the bill. The Hyde Amendment has a long history of bipartisan support and has been added to the House appropriations bill every year since it was first passed on September 30, 1976. It is credited with saving at least 2.4 million lives from abortion.
The letter stated, “We bishops have been resolute in our insistence that no taxpayer funding go to abortions. Abortion directly and purposefully takes the life of an innocent person and is the antithesis of health care. No federal 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 USCCB is not alone in its opposition to the expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion. In fact, the majority of Americans agree with the bishops. A Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll released in January 2021 revealed that 58% of Americans oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion within the United States.
The bishops are sending a clear message to Congress — spending packages that remove pro-life amendments and support funding for the killing of the preborn are not only immoral, but they are also not supported by the American people.
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