By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The U.S. Bishops are backing the efforts of 166 U.S. Representatives who are seeking approval of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 5939) that will permanently ban all federal funding of abortions.
Spero News is reporting that Cardinal Daniel D. DiNardo, head of the pro-life activities committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), sent a letter on August 20 to all members of the US House of Representatives asking them to get behind H.R. 5939, introduced last month by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), which will codify existing restrictions on abortion funding such as the Hyde and Weldon amendments that are now passed each year only as riders to various annual appropriations bills.
This sometimes allows gaps and other loopholes to be used that don’t seem to be addressed by this “patchwork of provisions,” the Cardinal said in his letter. He added that although Congress’s policy has been remarkably consistent for decades, “implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal and sometimes sadly inadequate.”
He cited the recently passed health care reform legislation as a prime example of why the current system isn’t working. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, contains at least three different policies on federal funding of abortion, none of which are consistent with the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion under certain conditions.
“For example, one provision of the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act technically complies with the first sentence of Hyde (against direct and traceable funding of abortion procedures themselves), but violates Hyde’s second sentence (against funding health plans that cover abortions) – and then violates the spirit of the entire amendment, by directly forcing conscientiously opposed citizens in many plans to fund other people’s abortions through their health premiums (sec. 1303),” the Cardinal writes.
“Another provision appropriates its own new funds outside the bounds of the Hyde amendment and allows those funds to be used for abortions or not, depending on a decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (sec. 1101). Yet another provision leaves out any reference to Hyde, and allows its new funding for community health centers to be governed by the underlying mandates in the authorizing legislation for these centers – mandates that in other health programs have been interpreted by the federal courts to require federal funding of abortion (Sec. 10503). These disparate policies are not compatible with the Hyde amendment, or even with one another. This is one reason why passage of a bill like H.R. 5939 is overdue.”
Not only would passage of H.R. 5939 eliminate loopholes such as these, it would allow future health care legislation and/or appropriations bills to be argued on their own merits rather than being mired in controversy and “endangered because ideologues favoring abortion want to use them to reverse or weaken longstanding federal policy on abortion funding,” he wrote.
H.R. 5939 would also codify the Hyde/Weldon amendment that has been part of the section containing the Hyde amendment in annual appropriations bills since 2004. Hyde/Weldon ensures that federal agencies, and state and local governments receiving federal funds, do not discriminate against health care providers because they do not perform or provide abortions.
“It is long overdue for this policy, as well, to be given a more secure legislative status,” Cardinal DiNardo writes. “No hospital, doctor or nurse should be forced to stop providing much-needed legitimate health care because they cannot in conscience participate in destroying a developing human life.”
Implementation of H.R. 5939 would prevent all of these problems and confusions in the future, he said, which is why the Catholic bishops of the United States “strongly support” this legislation and are urging representatives “to support and co-sponsor this important legislation if you have not yet done so.”
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