WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House's approval of appropriations bills that didn't include the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life riders is an "injustice" that overshadows the provisions that help "vulnerable people," said the chairmen of two U.S. bishops' committees.
Late July 29, the House voted 219 to 208 in favor of H.R. 4502, a package of appropriations bills that currently exclude the Hyde, Weldon and Helms amendments and other longstanding, bipartisan-supported pro-life language.
Eliminating these provisions would force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions and would have the effect of forcing health care providers and professionals "to perform and refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as forcing employers and insurers to cover and pay for abortion," said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a news release issued after the vote.
The release included a joint statement on the House actions by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
"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 prelates said.
"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," they said.
The now-approved package of spending bills “includes provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms," they acknowledged, but "as we have said before, 'being "right" in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.'"
This "failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community," they said, again quoting a previous bishops' statement.
H.R. 4502 covers spending for Agriculture; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services and General Government; Interior, Environment and related agencies, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and related agencies; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
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.
"The injustice in H.R. 4502 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.
The cardinal and archbishop called 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."
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.
In a July 30 joint statement, Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Naumann and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, criticized the House for eliminating Helms.
"(This) could force recipient countries that have strong legal and cultural opposition to abortion to embrace it in order to receive desperately needed help for their people," they said.
"Pope Francis has referred to this type of situation as ideological colonization," they added, calling on the Senate "to stand against the coercive pro-abortion policies of H.R. 4373."
"While this legislation contains many positive provisions that provide assistance to the poor and vulnerable worldwide, including protection of refugees, increases to humanitarian assistance, and protection of the environment, nothing can justify subsidizing the taking of innocent human life," the prelates said.