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ERLC urges Congress to consider pro-life policy priorities during funding negotiations

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NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has sent a letter urging Congress to consider three pro-life policy priorities during funding negotiations for the 2025 fiscal year.

With Congress beginning the negotiations process for the 2025 appropriations bills (the 12 bills which annually fund the government), the ERLC authored the letter to express its desire for both the House and Senate appropriations committees to consider several pro-life policy areas during the process.  

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood appealed to past SBC resolutions and Southern Baptist pro-life ministry in the letter sent to appropriators on Thursday, May 23.

“Following the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade, Southern Baptists have expressed a strong desire for lawmakers to enact policies that care for both vulnerable mothers and preborn children,” Leatherwood said.

“From the moment of conception to natural death, we believe that each person is made in the image of God and worthy of protection and care, regardless of age or ability. Southern Baptists live out the tenets of these beliefs by personally engaging in adoption and foster care, volunteering at and supporting pregnancy care centers, and advocating to protect life and human flourishing at every stage of development.”

The letter was addressed to the following appropriators:

  • Tom Cole, chairman, House Appropriations Committee
  • Rosa DeLauro, ranking member, House Appropriations Committee
  • Patty Murray, chairwoman, Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Susan Collins, vice chair, Senate Appropriations Committee

With both committees having recently begun drafting the first versions of their appropriations bills, Leatherwood emphasized the often-unrecognized role that appropriations bills play in establishing and maintaining pro-life policies.

“In recent months, there has been much debate on the national stage regarding the role and responsibility Congress has to protect preborn life,” Leatherwood said. “Yet, such conversation often neglects this reality: Congress already bears a weighty responsibility in directing much of pro-life policy through its appropriations work.”

The three pro-life policy priorities outlined in the letter include:

  • Retaining and expanding existing baseline pro-life protections
  • Ensuring conscience protections remain steadfast
  • Resisting any expansion of taxpayer funding for IVF and establishing baseline ethical standards for its practice

The letter first speaks to “essential” pro-life protections which have been maintained in the law for decades. The ERLC explained how important these laws are for protecting unborn life and the consciences of pro-life Americans.

“Many appropriations bills contain provisions that limit the use of federal funding to directly fund abortions, advertise for abortion, or otherwise promote abortion with taxpayer dollars,” Leatherwood said.

“Millions of Americans around the country oppose abortion due to their deeply-held religious and moral beliefs, and these riders function as safeguards to both protect life and ensure the federal government has no overreach that results in a misuse of federal funding at the taxpayer’s expense.

“Some baseline pro-life riders have remained in place for over 50 years, and there is a long and rich history of Congress time and again reaffirming its commitment to protecting life in federal law.”

The ERLC urged appropriators to maintain and even consider expanding these already existing protections, in the face of efforts from the Biden administration to expand access to abortion.

“We urge your committees to work towards expanding these riders to prevent taxpayer funding from being used for abortion, abortion-related travel, or abortion-related leave across the federal government,” Leatherwood said.

Second, the letter explains the importance of conscience protections for healthcare works and government employees which are upheld through appropriations.

“As Congress and the judiciary have repeatedly affirmed, religious liberty includes both freedom of belief and freedom to live out one’s beliefs,” Leatherwood said. “Notably, Congress reaffirmed this in 1993 with the near-unanimous passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act …

“Similarly, conscience protections in appropriations provide consistency in federal law by ensuring spending is not used to force government employees, healthcare workers at institutions that receive federal funding, and other recipients of taxpayer dollars to provide or enable abortions in conflict with their religious beliefs. These riders ensure some of the most ardent and sacrificing caregivers and public servants are not forced to choose between leaving the workplace or risking litigation to avoid violating their conscience as they serve the American people.”

Last, the letter addressed the topic of assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). The entity expressed its desire to resist any expansion of taxpayer funding for assisted reproductive technologies and that any such expansion be accompanied by language establishing minimal ethical standards of care.

In a separate letter released the same day, the ERLC flagged its concerns with the recently proposed “IVF Protection Act,” introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.).

Leatherwood closed out the letter by again urging appropriators to consider these policy priorities and by offering prayers of support.

“We know that you are juggling many competing requests and priorities, but the protection of life must remain paramount in these negotiations,” Leatherwood said. “As always, we are committed to praying for each of you as you navigate these complex matters, and ask God to give you wisdom and discernment.”

The full text of the appropriations letter can be read here.