Yesterday, the Senate released the remaining appropriations bills, and Congress must now either complete appropriations work or pass another continuing resolution by the end of December 3. On September 30, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 3.
On July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a seven-bill minibus, which included Agriculture, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Environment, Labor, HHS, Education and Transportation, HUD. Additionally, the House passed the Legislative Branch and State, Foreign Operations bills as stand alone bills.
Southern Baptists affirm the full dignity of every human being and that every life is worthy of protection, beginning with the unborn. We believe life begins at conception and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God and his knowledge of each of us even precedes the creative act of conception (Jer. 1:5; Psalm 139:13). At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.”
The ERLC is committed to conscience protection policies because they uphold two of our most closely held convictions. First, we work to protect the consciences of our neighbors because we believe religious freedom is an inalienable human right, thankfully secured as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. Second, protecting healthcare workers from the coercive power of the profit-seeking, on-demand abortion industry is a pro-life responsibility.
The ERLC opposes appropriation riders that deny religious freedom and conscience protections to millions of Americans. Efforts to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back religious freedom and conscience protections. Many of the riders discussed below do the same. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.
The FY2022 appropriations bills are troubling because they removes several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. For the first time since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bill and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.
Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for the first time since 2005. The amendment protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Donald Trump as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.
In September, we joined dozens of pro-life coalition partners in sending Congress a letter, uring them to oppose any legislation that fails to maintain Hyde protection. This October, ERLC’s acting president, Brent Leatherwood sent Senate leadership a letter urging them to defend protections against federal funds being used for abortion and to ensure that pro-life spending riders are approved in all spending legislation passed in the 117th Congress. And also urged Congress to remove harmful provisions that would exclude people of faith from serving the most vulnerable.
Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included. The ERLC will continue to advocate for these pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life.