Prioritize federal funds for families to embrace life, not abortion, says U.S. bishops’ pro-life chair
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is “a modest but important step” to make the long-standing policy of preventing federal taxpayer funding of elective abortions permanent and government-wide, said the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee chairman.
“Protecting taxpayers from being forced to pay for abortion in violation of their conscience is a principle that has enjoyed historically broad support among Americans, regardless of their otherwise passionately divided views on the topic. It has also been lifesaving,” said Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
He made the comments in a Jan. 27 letter to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in support of the measure they have sponsored in their respective chambers of Congress.
Rather than funding abortion, Bishop Burbidge said, “Congress can better serve the common good by prioritizing policies that comprehensively assist women, children and families in need in ways that will not only encourage childbirth but make it easier to welcome and raise a new child.”
The proposed legislation would make the restrictions on federal funding of abortion in the Hyde Amendment and related provisions permanent and government-wide, so that these restrictions do not have to continue to be reauthorized as part of appropriations bills for various government departments as they have since the 1970s.
“That these policies have stood for over 45 years reflects decades of bipartisan agreement and the reality that most Americans believe that the federal government should not use its power to support and promote elective abortion and should not compel citizens to subsidize this violence,” Bishop Burbidge said.
“The public’s opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion has also been revealed in polls to historically include majorities of women, minorities, lower-income individuals, and even many of those who describe themselves as pro-choice. Despite all of this, congressional action is required,” he said.
The Hyde Amendment first became law to prohibit federal funds appropriated through the Labor Department, the Health and Human Services Department and related agencies from being used to cover abortion or fund health plans that cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.
The Helms Amendment — which has been called “the Hyde Amendment for the rest of the world” — has prohibited using U.S. taxpayer funds to directly pay for abortions in other countries since 1973. It was passed in the wake of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing abortion nationwide.
The Weldon Amendment has been included in the annual appropriation for Health and Human Services since 2005. It allows health care providers as well as insurance plans to refuse to provide abortions, pay for them or refer women to abortion clinics.
“Last week, tens of thousands of Americans from across our nation gathered at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., to celebrate God’s miraculous gift of human life from its very beginning and to urge our government to respect and protect that most fundamental human right — the right to life,” Bishop Burbidge said.
Those in attendance at the Jan. 20 national march and rally “were joyful and grateful for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to restore the understanding that the Constitution does not provide a right to abortion,” the bishop said, referring to the high court’s June 24, 2022, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which reversed its Roe decision and returned the abortion issue to the states.
“Still, the federal government’s responsibility to steward funds without conscripting taxpayers to contribute to harming the most vulnerable among us, preborn children, remains,” Bishop Burbidge said.
“Each of the existing funding limitations affect only a particular funding stream, and many have to be reenacted every year in annual appropriations. This puts them — and subsequently women and their children — at risk in a polarized climate,” he added.
“The government should never fund the destruction of innocent preborn children. … Ultimately, abortion is an uncompassionate response to a difficult pregnancy, one that pits a mother in crisis against her preborn child,” Bishop Burbidge said. “Women and their preborn children both deserve better — they deserve all of us to stand with them, and to provide solutions that empower them both to have a positive future.”