The U.S. House of Representatives passed appropriation bills last week that, on the surface, appear to serve the common good. However, a hole exists in the fabric of the common good because these measures exclude the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life provisions. Yes, we welcome funding that “carefully rethreads safety nets for marginalized communities and the most vulnerable among us,” as U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, states. However, why eliminate longstanding pro-life provisions that protect the vulnerable child in the womb of his or her mother? Why does it have to be “either/or” and not “both/and?”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed in, justifiably so, in a news release after the House voted July 29. “The refusal by the U.S. House to include the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life riders in the appropriations bills … overshadows the provisions that help vulnerable people,” the news release stated. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who chairs the Committee for Religious Liberty and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, also said that without the Hyde Amendment, “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.” The spending bills include provisions to help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms, but the prelates said that does not “excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life” (Catholic News Service, July 30, 2021).
Elimination of one of the pro-life riders, the Helms Amendment (H.R. 4373), will have an impact on recipients of overseas aid, as well. The legislation “pays for abortions and abortion advocacy,” the prelates said in a separate statement with Bishop David J. Malloy, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
In sum, the USCCB states that the House’s action removes pro-life policies that protect taxpayers from having to pay for elective abortions, at home and abroad. It fails to protect health care providers from being forced to perform abortions or to refer for abortions against their beliefs, and it fails to protect employers and insurers from having to pay for abortions.
The House Committee on Appropriations website (https://tinyurl.com/47yeu7yz) posted an extensive news release on the package of seven appropriations bills that the House passed late July 29 on a 219-208 vote. House members of various committees extol the legislation that tackles hunger and nutrition insecurity and invests in the health of America’s kids through initiatives such as the Child Nutrition Program. The legislation responds to rural needs, including funding for rural broadband, and increases funding to address maternal and infant nutrition. It deals with the unacceptable pollution in communities of color and other environmental concerns. The legislation creates opportunities in the area of home ownership and provides rental assistance.
These terrific measures serve the common good, partially. You will not find references to the missing pro-life policies. Our legislators should have to explain, on the record, why they continue to ignore a large segment of their constituency who support life from womb to tomb.
Serving the common good requires us to take a “both/and” approach to improve the wellbeing of all, including the unborn. As Catholics, serving the common good takes priority over political affiliation. We must commit to filling in the hole that exists in the fabric of the common good. Pray for and remind all politicians (through letters and phone calls) to respect life from womb to tomb. Contact U.S. senators Charles Grassley, R-Iowa (grassley.senate.gov) and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa (ernst.senate.gov), and ask them to support reinstatement of the pro-life provisions in the appropriations legislation.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor