By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 23, 2010 ( – The U.S. Catholic Bishops are endorsing a bill proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would apply permanent Hyde amendment restrictions to abortion funding in federal programs.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chair of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged Congress to support the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 5939), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Dan Linkinski (D-Ill.) on July 30.

“H.R. 5939 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use taxpayers’ money to support and promote elective abortion,” Cardinal DiNardo stated in an August 20 letter. “Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand on abortion, and courts that have insisted on the validity of a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, have agreed that the government can validly use its funding power to encourage childbirth over abortion.”

The proposed legislation would make permanent the Hyde amendment, and many other pro-life policies that depend on congressional re-approval every year.

The Hyde amendment prohibits the funding of elective abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother, through any program funded by the annual Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Act.

The amendment is currently attached to the annual appropriations bill as a rider each year, rendering its continued survival uncertain.

The bill would also make permanent the Helms amendment, the Smith FEHBP amendment, and the Dornan amendment, which respectively prohibit the funding of abortion overseas, the funding of elective abortion coverage for federal employees, and the use of congressionally appropriated funds for abortion in the District of Columbia.

In addition to banning abortion funding, the bill would also codify the Hyde-Weldon conscience clause within the Hyde amendment.  This ensures that recipients of federal funding do not discriminate against health care providers because they do not provide or facilitate abortions.

The bill already has 166 co-sponsors, including 20 Democrat House members.

DiNardo said it was imperative that Congress pass Hyde-like restrictions across the whole gamut of federal programs, since Congress has needed to pass individual legislation in order to address newly discovered gaps or loopholes where federal dollars could go to finance elective abortions.

“While Congress’s policy has been remarkably consistent for decades, implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal and sometimes sadly inadequate,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

He pointed to three aspects in the new national health care reform that contradict the spirit, if not the letter of Hyde, including provisions “directly forcing conscientiously opposed citizens in many plans to fund other people’s abortions through their health premiums.” 

DiNardo said that should Congress pass H.R. 5939, then “federal health legislation could be debated and supported in terms of its ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates about one lethal procedure that most Americans know is not about ‘health care’ at all.”


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