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Senate passes omnibus spending bill with Hyde, other pro-life provisions

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WASHINGTON, DC — The chairs of several U.S. Episcopal committees and the leader of the March 11 March for Life congratulated U.S. senators who voted to pass the government’s omnibus bill with the Hyde Amendment and others pro-life provisions included.

The bishops also commended lawmakers for including “essential humanitarian assistance to victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

In a 68-31 vote in late March, the Senate approved a $1.5 trillion government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. The House passed the measure a day earlier. It will now be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.

To avoid a government shutdown, both houses also passed a four-day stopgap measure to extend current funding levels until March 15 in case the massive bill does not pass.

The 2,741-page text was released around noon on March 9, leaving many lawmakers complaining that they had little time to consider the measure before having to vote. The measure was “the product of months of negotiations,” as CNN reported.

“We commend Congress for including provisions in the omnibus appropriations package that uphold the sacred dignity of human life and will support and assist many vulnerable people here and abroad,” said the chairs of five committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in a joint statement.

“In particular, we are grateful to Congress for maintaining long-standing, bipartisan, and life-saving provisions, including the Hyde, Helms, and Weldon Amendments that prevent our tax dollars from paying for the tragedy of abortion and prevent people from having to participate in abortion against their conscience,” they said.

The Bishops also noted that the final measure covers “improved maternal health care, investments that will support refugees and other vulnerable migrants.”

The bishops who released the joint statement and their committees are: Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, pro-life activities; New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Religious Liberty; Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, International Justice and Peace; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Homeland Justice and Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, Migration.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, applauded “pro-life senators who successfully fought and voted to keep all legacy pro-life runners alive.”

“While this bill still sends far too many of our tax dollars to abortion companies like Planned Parenthood, these pro-life runners will continue to save lives,” she said in a statement.

“In fact, the Hyde Amendment alone is estimated to have saved over 2.4 million American lives,” she added, “and a consistent majority of Americans say they don’t want to be forced to pay for this end-of-life procedure.”

The Hyde Amendment first came into effect in 1976 to prohibit federal funds allocated through the Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, and related agencies from being used to cover abortion or finance health plans that cover abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life would be in danger.

It has been re-enacted in spending bills every year since its passage.

The Helms Amendment – which has been called “the Hyde Amendment for the rest of the world” – has banned the use of US taxpayer funds to directly pay for abortions in other countries since 1973. It was passed following of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that year to legalize abortion nationwide.

The Weldon Amendment has been included in the annual appropriations for health and social services since 2005. It allows health care providers as well as insurance plans to refuse to provide abortions, pay for them or refer women to abortion clinics.

CNN reported that a group of Democrats who oppose these pro-life provisions wanted them removed from the final bill, but they failed in their efforts.

In their joint statement, the USCCB committee chair praised other parts of the omnibus bill, such as increased spending on affordable housing and food security and environmental provisions, including climate resilience. and PFAS remediation.

“PFAS” stands for polyfluoroalkyl substance, which are widely used long-lived chemicals whose components break down very slowly over time.

“Finally,” the bishops said, “we welcome the inclusion of provisions that address the unique vulnerability of pregnant and postpartum mothers impacted by the U.S. immigration system, as well as essential services for other populations at risk”.