Cardinal Tobin, Colorado bishops warn against federal abortion funding

Cardinal Tobin Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark answered questions during a press conference at the 2019 USCCB General Assembly on June 13, 2019. | Kate Veik/CNA

Catholic leaders this week warned that proposed legislation could push billions of federal tax dollars toward funding of elective abortions.

“I am deeply concerned that the proposed federal budget would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which, for 45 years, has prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden, a Catholic, excluded the Hyde Amendment from his budget request to Congress for the 2022 fiscal year. The amendment, federal policy since 1976, prohibits funding of elective abortions in Medicaid; according to one estimate, it has resulted in around 60,000 fewer abortions per year. Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate are pushing for a repeal of the policy.

“Taxpayer-funded abortion represents a failure to recognize the sanctity of human life and promotes a culture in which human life in its most vulnerable moment is perceived as disposable,” Cardinal Tobin said.

The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state's Catholic bishops, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the exclusion of the Hyde Amendment from federal appropriations bills “represents a monumental threat to the sanctity of life in the United States.”

“The proposals of President Joe Biden, who professes Catholicism, and House Democratic leadership not only endanger the lives of tens of thousands of pre-born children, they also run contrary to public opinion,” the conference stated. The Catholic bishops of Colorado are Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, Bishop James Golka of Colorado Springs, and Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo.

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee characterized the Hyde Amendment as racist and discriminatory, at a hearing in December 2020. They argued the policy disproportionately targets low-income women and women of color by preventing federal subsidies of abortions through Medicaid.

The Colorado bishops on Wednesday said that “American citizens deserve not to have their tax dollars used to fund the killing of pre-born children in the womb.”

Following President Biden’s budget request to Congress, House Democratic leadership on the appropriations committee has already worked to exclude other common abortion funding prohibitions. These include the Helms Amendment, which bars funding of international abortions in U.S. foreign assistance. The Dornan and Smith amendments, which prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia and funding of abortion coverage in federal employee health plans, are also at risk of being excluded from appropriations bills.

As House committees approve appropriations to fund the federal government, the full House is expected to vote on the legislation this month.

“Unfortunately, this is likely only the beginning of the attack on pro-life policies in the budgetary process,” the Colorado Catholic Conference warned, noting that the Hyde Amendment might not be included in the appropriations bill for the federal departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), a member of the House Appropriations committee, spoke out against the removal of international abortion funding prohibitions last week at a markup hearing for the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill.

“But there is one aspect of this that, when I look at it, I feel punched in the gut – that we take American taxpayer dollars and pay for abortions overseas,” Fortenberry said of the legislation.

“We take our most divisive social issue – which is not settled in our nation – and we export it to peoples around the world, in violation of their cultural norms, undermining the very purpose of diplomacy. It smacks of arrogance, it smacks of elitism, and Pope Francis has called this ideological colonization,” he said.

The proposed legislation increases funding for international “family planning” and “reproductive health” programs without prohibitions on funding of abortions. It would also permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, executive policy which bars funding of international NGOs that promote or provide abortions.

Cardinal Tobin on Tuesday quoted Pope Francis, noting that “it is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.”

“It is crucially important that we send a strong, clear message that the Hyde Amendment has far-reaching public support and should not be repealed,” he said.

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