Cardinal, Washington official criticize move to fund D.C. abortions

WASHINGTON – The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and a representative of the Archdiocese of Washington expressed opposition in late June to a provision in President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget that would permit taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.

“No lawmaker or administration can support such a policy change and still claim to support ‘reducing abortions,’ ” said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia in a June 30 letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, which was to take up consideration of the fiscal year 2010 budget after the July 4 recess.

Christa Lopiccolo, director of life issues for the Archdiocese of Washington, said women in the District “don’t need more abortions. They need access to services that nurture and support the life of their children.”

“The difficulty and confusion of an unintended pregnancy deserves loving and compassionate care,” Lopiccolo added in a June 26 statement. “It is unconscionable that funds from taxpayers – the majority of whom oppose abortion, according to national surveys – would be used to destroy innocent human life.”

In action June 25 on the budget, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government voted to rescind an amendment that had prohibited public funding of elective abortions for 18 of the last 20 budget years. The subcommittee vote narrowed the ban to include only federal funds and not “local” funds.

“Because Congress controls and must appropriate all public funds for the District of Columbia, this distinction is a bookkeeping exercise only,” Cardinal Rigali said in his letter. “The impact in terms of human lives will be exactly the same as if the amendment were reversed in its entirety.”

The cardinal said some people “may try to defend (the subcommittee’s) action in terms of ‘home rule’ for the district,” but the panel retained “some other current bans on the district’s use of all public funds (e.g., for personal use of public vehicles or to weaken laws on use of controlled substances).”

He also questioned the timing of the move “as Congress is working to win broad support for a much-needed major reform of our health care system.”

“A key issue in this debate is whether any open-ended or general language on benefits in such legislation will be exploited to begin funding abortions or mandating abortion coverage,” Cardinal Rigali said, adding that the subcommittee’s action “can only increase distrust of reform efforts at a time when mutual trust and cooperation are more needed than ever.”

“This is the worst of all possible times to be injecting the divisive issue of public abortion funding into the debate on government health policy,” he added.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.