By Vatican News staff writer
The US House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act on Wednesday, handing President Joe Biden's administration the go-ahead to launch its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill aimed at stabilizing the nation’s economy.
Following this latest development, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, and the chairmen of six USCCB committees released a statement.
The Bishops expressed support for provisions in the Rescue Plan Act that will provide relief for the needy and the vulnerable amid the ongoing pandemic, but also voiced their concerns about the bill’s lack of protection for unborn life.
The Bishops’ concern
In the statement, the Bishops expressed gratitude that there are provisions in the bill that “will save people from extremely desperate situations and will likely save lives.” They highlighted positive provisions including unemployment assistance, nutrition funding, vaccine distribution funding, and child and earned income tax credit enhancements, among other things.
However, they pointed out, “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.”
“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,” the Bishops said.
Explaining further, the Bishops noted that unlike previous Covid-19 relief bills, the sponsors of this latest Act did not consider the “longstanding, bi-partisan consensus policy to prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding abortions domestically and internationally.” Moreover, the bipartisan consensus policy was needed – the Bishops insisted – because the bill includes general references to healthcare which, without the exclusion of abortion, have been interpreted by federal courts “not only to allow, but to compel the provision of abortion without meaningful limit.”
Therefore, the Bishops are concerned that the 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.”
The other Bishop chairmen joining the Wednesday statement include chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas; chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City; chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford; , chairman for the Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, of Oakland; chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux; and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Migration.