The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) ethics entity called on U.S. Senate leaders Oct. 19 to restore long-standing, pro-life policies excluded from newly released spending bills.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) sent a letter expressing its opposition to the absence of the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life protections in the nine remaining spending measures for fiscal year 2022 unveiled Oct. 18.
Messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting in June approved a resolution that denounced any attempt to rescind the Hyde Amendment and urged the retention of all pro-life “riders,” which must be approved each year in spending bills. It is estimated the Hyde Amendment, which has barred federal funds in Medicaid and other programs from paying for abortions in every year since 1976, has saved the lives of about 2½ million unborn children.
“We have grave concerns about the appropriations bills the Senate released that strip all pro-life protections, including the lifesaving Hyde Amendment,” said Chelsea Sobolik, the ERLC’s director of public policy, in written comments.
“The ERLC strongly urges the Senate to reinstate this and other lifesaving provisions in order to protect precious preborn babies and defend the consciences of Americans.”
After Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, released the remaining spending bills, the lead Republican member of the committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, criticized their partisan nature. The spending proposals “are filled with poison pills” and have removed “important legacy riders” on such issues as abortion, Shelby said in a written release.
In the ERLC letter, acting ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said, “[W]e strongly object to tax dollars being used for what we believe to be a great moral wrong. These amendments save lives and protect American consciences.”
Leatherwood told Senate leaders the removal of pro-life protections is “unacceptable in the minds of countless constituents who do not want a dime of their resources supporting the abortion industry in any way, shape or form.”
He also noted the measures prevent organizations “that do not adhere to the ever-shifting notions of sexual orientation and gender identity ideology” from receiving funds from the Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition to removing the Hyde Amendment, the bills, Shelby said in a news release, also exclude the:
- Weldon Amendment, which has barred since 2004 funding for government programs that discriminate against health care individuals or institutions that object to abortion.
- Dornan Amendment, which was first adopted in 1988 and has barred in most of the years since federal and congressionally approved local funds from paying for abortions in the District of Columbia.
- Smith Amendment, which has barred in nearly every year since 1984 federal employee health plans from paying for abortions.
Also included in the spending legislation, Shelby said, are measures that:
- Codify revocation of what is commonly known as the Mexico City Policy, which bars organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or promote abortions internationally.
- Mandate recipients of Title X family planning funds provide drugs, counseling and referrals for abortion and increases funding for the program by 75%.
- Cripple the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, a 1985 measure that bans overseas family planning money from going to any organization that is involved in a program of forced abortion or sterilization.
- Expand funding by $22.5 million to the United Nations Population Fund, which has been linked to support of a Chinese population-control program that includes coercive abortions and sterilizations.
The ERLC has urged retention in spending legislation of the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life “riders” in multiple letters this year to the Democratic-controlled Congress. The commission, which has worked for a comprehensive ban on federal funding of abortion, included the protection of pro-life “riders” in spending legislation as one of its priorities in its 2021 Public Policy Agenda.
The 100-seat Senate is evenly divided by party, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has given hope to pro-lifers by declaring his support for the Hyde Amendment. In July, the House of Representatives approved spending bills that removed the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life measures.
While Hyde has received backing from a significant percentage of pro-choice advocates in the past, Democratic opposition to the amendment has grown in recent years. President Joe Biden supported the amendment during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, but he reversed his position in 2019 while running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of more than 2.4 million unborn children since its inception, according to an estimate in July 2020 by Michael New, veteran researcher and associate scholar of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.
The ERLC’s letter went to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as Leahy and Shelby.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)