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Bishops reject funding for abortion in health care provisions of budget bill

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By Julie Asher, Catholic Information Service

The United States Capitol seen in Washington on July 24, 2021 (Photo: Capitol News Service)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – On September 17, two Catholic archbishops opposed two House committees advancing parts of the $ 3.5 trillion budget bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, with a wording that funds abortions being added to wording they support to improve access to affordable health care for all.

Funding for abortion, “the deliberate destruction of our most vulnerable siblings – those in the womb – cannot be included,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Chairman of the United States Committee of Catholic Bishops on Pro-Life Activities; and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Justice and Human Development.

“Congress can and should give up including taxpayer funding for abortion in the Build Back Better Act,” they said. “We urge all members of Congress and the administration to work in good faith to advance important and vital health care arrangements without forcing Americans to pay for the willful destruction of unborn human lives.”

Archbishops Naumann and Coakley’s joint statement came in response to the September 15 markup of legislation by the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Energy and Trade to include the provision on financing of abortion.

On September 13, before the markup, the two prelates wrote “to implore” members of the House “to reject provisions that would increase taxpayer funding for abortion” and to include the principle of the Hyde Amendment. “not to finance elective abortions”.

In their letter and follow-up statement, they reiterated the long-standing support and advocacy of U.S. bishops for proposals “at the federal and state levels that ensure access to affordable health care for all, including Medicaid expansion proposals ”.

“We are encouraged by several health care provisions in parts of the Build Back Better Act that will improve health care coverage for those in need,” the prelates said on September 15.

These include “improved postpartum coverage and other investments to address the high rates of preventable maternal deaths in the United States, expanded access to home care for family members, support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid before release. coverage for returning citizens, ”they said.

Archbishops’ statement on access to health care and abortion coverage echoes a September 7 letter from five USCCB presidents to all members of Congress and Senate on the priorities they have urged lawmakers to include it in the budget measure.

The letter called on Congress to “respect the rights and dignity of every human life in health care” by ensuring that the final bill allows everyone “to have access to affordable and comprehensive care that promotes healthy living. life and dignity, ”they said.

The USCCB “insists that the health care proposals in this bill, such as the Medicaid expansion, be governed by the Hyde Amendment’s long-standing principle of not funding elective abortions. The destruction of human life through abortion is not a form of health care, and taxpayers should not be forced to fund it, ”said the five committee chairs.

“If this bill increases taxpayer funding for abortion, the USCCB will oppose it,” they said.

Archbishops Naumann and Coakley signed the letter with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Committee for Religious Freedom; Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, Calif., Committee on Catholic Education; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, Committee on Migration.

In August, House Members and Senators passed their respective versions of a framework or blueprint for the $ 3.5 trillion budget measure, and now they’re filling in the details.

Senate Democrats hope to pass the bill using the reconciliation process – meaning it could pass by a simple majority, and not with the 60 votes usually required.

Other priorities outlined by the bishops included creating jobs that pay “just a salary”; strengthening families by making the child care tax credit permanent; ensuring “safe, decent and affordable housing”; expand access to early childhood education; tackle greenhouse gas emissions, especially when they affect poor and vulnerable communities; guarantee access to drinking water, “a universal human right”; and preserve religious freedom so that all benefit from the provisions of the bill.

Another of the bishops’ priorities – meeting the needs of migrants and refugees – was addressed on September 12 in a vote by the House Judiciary Committee to approve language that would pave the way for U.S. citizenship for beneficiaries of the program. deferred action for arrivals of children, known as “Dreamers”.

The citizenship provision would also cover holders of temporary protection status, beneficiaries of delayed forced departures, and agricultural and other essential workers who are in the country without legal authorization.

“Without a doubt, Catholic social education will be involved in many aspects of this budget reconciliation bill, but it is a welcome step for many families and for the common good,” Bishop Dorsonville said in a statement. September 15.

Urging a path to legalization and citizenship for migrants and refugees, the committee chairs in their September 7 letter noted their “deep concern for family unity and the obstacles facing many families with status. mixed ”.

Regarding jobs for the poor and vulnerable, the bishops said: “We have long argued that work is fundamental to human dignity (and) constantly call for the creation of decent jobs at decent wages as the way. more efficient way to build a just economy.

“Job creation should focus on fair wages, include a right to organize and resources for vocational training and apprenticeship programs,” they said.

The five committee chairs described climate change as “a serious challenge that requires investments in mitigation and adaptation to achieve rapid decarbonization, reduce other greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, and protect human beings. more vulnerable ”.

“Disadvantaged and marginalized communities who suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change should be given priority for investments in clean energy infrastructure and climate resilience,” they said.

“Special attention must be paid to the jobs and needs of coal and fossil fuel industry workers and their families, whose livelihoods face the uncertainties of energy transitions.

The bishops described provisions which they believe are necessary to strengthen families: “We have long taught that ‘economic and social policies as well as the organization of the world of work must be continually evaluated in the light of their impact on the strength and stability of family life.

“The long-term future of this nation is inextricably linked to the well-being of families, for the family is the most fundamental form of human community.”

They called for the expanded child tax credit to be made permanent and called for increasing access to home care for family members, strengthening child nutrition programs, ensuring child care options. ‘quality and affordable children, paid sick leave, parental leave’ and other forms of support for children. working families.

Congress could support affordable housing, the bishops said, by “increasing funding for the National Housing Trust Fund and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit” and “significantly expanding the rental aid so that it is accessible to more households in need “.

Lawmakers should also preserve public housing by tackling the $ 70 billion reparations backlog, tackling the eviction crisis and promoting equal housing opportunities for all, including by addressing racial disparities in home ownership, ”they said.

The bishops called for expanding access to early childhood education and said this “must take into consideration the desires of parents, the unique needs of their children and include a variety of educational opportunities, including programs provided by the faith community “.

They also said Congress should preserve religious freedom by ensuring that “the benefits of this legislation (are) available to all”.

“To this end, Congress must avoid imposing obligations on funding programs and partnerships that exclude individuals and organizations who hold certain religious beliefs,” they said. “For example, recipients of funding under the bill should not be required to agree to a false understanding of gender and sexuality. “