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ERLC, others urge retention of abortion funding bans

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WASHINGTON (BP) – The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity has joined other pro-life organizations in urging members of Congress to maintain long-standing bans on federal funding of abortion.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) was among 60 national and state groups whose leaders signed onto a Sept. 7 letter that asked the Senate and House of Representatives to protect the Hyde Amendment and other measures that prohibit abortion funding.

The pro-life coalition called on the Senate to restore the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life “riders,” as they are known, that were removed from spending bills by the House in July. The pro-life leaders also implored both houses of Congress to assure a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation proposal does not support taxpayer funds for abortion.

“Our taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund abortions,” said Chelsea Sobolik, the ERLC’s acting director of public policy, in written comments. “The Hyde Amendment protects American consciences and dollars, but for the first time since it was introduced in 1976, [it] has been stripped from the House budget.

“We strongly urge the Senate to place this and important pro-life riders back into the budget.”

Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC’s vice president of external affairs and chief of staff, signed onto the letter. It followed a late July letter from the ERLC that urged Senate leaders to reinstate the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life policies the House had just removed from appropriations bills.

In June, messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting passed 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.

The Hyde Amendment has barred federal funds in Medicaid and other programs from paying for abortions in every year since 1976. It is estimated the measure has saved the lives of about 2½ million unborn children. The amendment has exceptions for a threat to the mother’s life, as well as rape and incest.

The pro-life protections eliminated in House-approved appropriations legislation in July included not only the Hyde Amendment but “riders” that barred foreign aid funding of abortion as a method of family planning, money for elective abortions in the District of Columbia and federal employee health plans that pay for abortions.

In the letter spearheaded by the Susan B. Anthony List, the pro-life coalition told Congress, “The American people do not support federal funding of abortion. Abortion cuts against the spirit and soul of our nation’s founding. We believe in unalienable rights that foster human dignity and protect life.”

The letter urged senators and representatives to make certain the budget reconciliation would not fund elective abortions through proposals to expand Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, as well as money for community health centers.

Pro-life advocates gained encouragement when the Senate approved in a 50-49 vote in August a non-binding amendment by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., that prohibits federal funds for abortion. The amendment was part of the budget reconciliation process, which enables Senate passage of legislation without the normal requirement of 60 votes to invoke cloture and halt a filibuster. In the reconciliation process, only a majority is required for passage.

The amended budget resolution eventually approved by the Senate provides guidance for its committees in writing the actual budget bill for fiscal year 2022.

Others signing onto the pro-life letter included representatives of the National Right to Life Committee, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Human Coalition Action, Family Research Council, March for Life Action, Concerned Women for America LAC and Live Action.

The ERLC, 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.