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US bishops’ petition to preserve Hyde Amendment surpasses 130,000 signatures
The March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2018. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging Americans to sign their petition to save the Hyde Amendment from being eliminated in congressional legislation.

“We are trying to get Catholics, pro-lifers, and all people of goodwill to contact Congress and to let them know that taxpayer funded abortion is unacceptable,” the USCCB’s Assistant Director for Pro-Life Communications, Kat Talalas, told CNA July 21.

The USCCB’s petition, which launched in early May, calls for stopping “billions of taxpayer dollars could be used to pay for abortion.” The petition also discusses the history of the Hyde Amendment, consequences of its elimination, and provides other links and resources related to the amendment.

President Joe Biden, a Catholic, excluded the Hyde Amendment from his budget request to Congress for the 2022 fiscal year. The amendment prohibits funding of elective abortions in Medicaid; according to one estimate, it has resulted in around 60,000 fewer abortions per year. Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate are pushing for a repeal of the policy.

The Hyde Amendment was first introduced in 1976, and has been part of federal budgets every year since. It must be attached each year to federal budget bills.

The current Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, H.R. 4502, does not include the Hyde Amendment.

The USCCB has collected about 133,000 signatures for their petition, although Talalas told CNA the signatures are “increasing by the minute.”

After the LHHS appropriations bill was introduced last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill July 15. An amendment to include the Hyde Amendment in the appropriations bill failed at the markup hearing in a 27-32 vote. The legislation ultimately passed the committee by a vote of 33-25.

Both chambers of Congress have to approve the bill before it can be sent to Biden’s desk for signing.

The USCCB will be sending the petition to each representative and senator in cCngress early next week. Talalas told CNA bishops around the country have been advertising the petition in their dioceses.

The Hyde Amendment has historically received staunch opposition by some in Congress and the White House, with President Bill Clinton excluding the policy from his budget request to Congress in 1993 and some House Democrats working to keep it out of budget legislation that year.

However, an amended version of the policy passed Congress and was signed into law by Clinton. Members of Congress from both parties have over the years voted for budget bills including Hyde Amendment language, and presidents of both parties have signed the bills.

Biden once supported the Hyde Amendment as a U.S. senator, even explaining his support for it in a letter to a constituent in 1994. However, as a 2020 presidential candidate, Biden reversed his support for the policy in June 2019 amid pressure from pro-abortion groups.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform included, for the first time, a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment. The party again called for its repeal in 2020.