Following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in the U.S. House of Representatives today, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairmen of six USCCB committees released a statement. The bishops expressed support for the provisions in the bill that would provide relief to help those in need during the ongoing COVID pandemic but were also critical of the bill’s lack of protections for the unborn.
Chairmen joining the statement included Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, of Oakland, chairman for the Committee on Catholic Education; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Migration.
The statement follows:
“As the American Rescue Plan Act was being written, Catholic bishops reached out to every House and Senate office to express our support for providing additional relief to help poor and vulnerable people who are most at risk of harm from this pandemic, and our strong conviction that this relief should also protect the unborn and their right to life.
“We are grateful this legislation addresses many positive provisions including unemployment assistance, child and earned income tax credit enhancements, nutrition funding, vaccine distribution funding, health care funding, housing assistance, international assistance to regions stricken by COVID, conflict, and hunger. There are provisions in this bill that will save people from extremely desperate situations and will likely save lives.
“However, it is unconscionable that Congress has passed the bill without critical protections needed to ensure that billions of taxpayer dollars are used for life-affirming health care and not for abortion.
“Unlike previous COVID relief bills, sponsors of the American Rescue Plan Act refused to include the long-standing, bi-partisan consensus policy to prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding abortions domestically and internationally. The policy was needed because this bill includes many general references to healthcare that, absent the express exclusion of abortion, have consistently been interpreted by federal courts not only to allow, but to compel, the provision of abortion without meaningful limit. “The many important, life-saving provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act have been undermined because it facilitates and funds the destruction of life, which is antithetical to its aim of protecting the most vulnerable Americans in a time of crisis.”