U.S. bishops: COVID relief should protect the vulnerable, including the unborn

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U.S. bishops are asking that the next COVID relief bill include “life-affirming policies” and reject abortion funding.

 

In a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday, several bishops advocated for the next COVID relief bill to include certain emergency aid policies while excluding funding of abortions.

 

The relief package "should promote the dignity and value of all human life and protect poor and vulnerable people who are most at risk,” the bishops stated.

 

“Accordingly, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to use the money and policies in these bills to fund and promote life-affirming policies and not to advance the destruction of innocent unborn human life,” they added in their letter.

 

The letter's signers included Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, the domestic justice chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB); Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the USCCB’s international justice and peace committee; Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, chair of the USCCB’s education committee; Bishop Shelton Fabre, chair of the USCCB anti-racism committee; Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chair of the USCCB migration committee; and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the USCCB pro-life committee.

 

President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. Although he met with Republicans on Tuesday, who presented a $600 billion counter-proposal, Democrats appear poised to pass Biden’s proposal with or without Republican support.

 

Senate Democrats are reportedly using the parliamentary process of reconciliation to pass the relief measure, thus only requiring 50 votes in the chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris available to break a 50-50 split.

 

Pro-life groups had expressed concern to CNA earlier this month that COVID relief could open up new federal funding of health care without pro-life protections. On Wednesday, the pro-life group March for Life Action tweeted its concern that the bill could include abortion funding.

 

The bishops on Wednesday reiterated their stance against abortion funding in the relief bill.

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“Any public option for health care, or similar efforts to increase access to health care, must include protections against using taxpayer dollars for elective abortions,” the bishops said.

 

The bishops asked members to maintain increases to food stamp benefits, fund emergency rental assistance, provide for “testing, vaccination, and treatment for COVID-19 for all,” increase Medicaid resources for states, and provide for protective equipment and paid leave for essential workers.

 

In addition, they advocated for “equitable access” to emergency aid for non-public schools, “legal status and a pathway to citizenship” for essential workers, Dreamers, and TPS recipients and their families, and an expansion of the above-the-line charitable tax deduction.

 

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House Republican Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) has criticized the use of reconciliation to pass the relief measure, saying that it included a $15-an-hour minimum wage among other policies that Republicans are objecting to.