WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Thursday (March 11) signed into law a $1.9 trillion relief package that pro-lifers have decried because it fails to include safeguards against abortion funding.
Biden signed the bill – known as the American Rescue Plan – hours before he delivers his first prime-time address since taking office, in which he will mark one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 529,000 Americans.
The COVID relief package failed to gain bipartisan support – none of the Republican members of Congress voted for it – and rejected long-standing protections against government funding of abortion. The Democratic majorities in both houses turned back GOP efforts to apply the Hyde Amendment, which has banned the funding of abortions in federal health programs since 1976, to the measure. The legislation also conflicted with the five COVID-19 relief bills approved in 2020 that included safeguards against abortion funding.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said, “Whatever one thinks of the American Rescue Plan, the omission of critical conscience protections like the Hyde Amendment is wrong.
“All of us ought to agree that our country needs urgent action to deal with the public health and economic recovery in the wake of this pandemic,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a written statement. “But why allow the abortion lobby to use this public health crisis to advance their divisive agenda?”
Moore urged Biden and members of Congress “to return to the bipartisan agreement that all federal spending should respect the long-held belief that taxpayer resources should not be used for abortion. For nearly half a century, these amendments have saved lives and protected American consciences. In a moment when so much divides us, we should return to that point of consensus.”
At the bill’s signing in the Oval Office, Biden said, “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country.”
He originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House more quickly than anticipated.
“We want to move as fast as possible,” tweeted White House chief of staff Ron Klain. He added: “We will hold our celebration of the signing on Friday, as planned, with congressional leaders!”
Previewing his remarks, Biden said he would “talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next.”
Biden said he would focus his remarks on what his administration plans to deliver in the coming months, but also reiterate his call for Americans to continue to practice social distancing and wear face coverings to hasten the end of the pandemic.
“I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” he said.
He added: “There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year. There is real reason for hope.”
Almost exactly one year ago, President Donald Trump addressed the nation to mark the WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic.
From The Associated Press. May not be republished. Tom Strode, Baptist Press Washington bureau chief, contributed to this report.