Catholics across the state and nation are being encouraged to sign an online petition urging Congress to protect taxpayers from funding elective abortions.

“At a time when our country is experiencing high unemployment, a potential housing crisis, food insecurity and is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, one must question why some in Congress are working to allocate billions of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions when this money could be used to help those struggling to meet basic needs,” said James King, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.

At issue is the removal of several longstanding pro-life protections in President Joe Biden’s proposed $6 trillion budget for fiscal year 2022, one of which is the Hyde Amendment. Hyde prohibits federal funds from being used to cover abortion or fund health plans that cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.

The amendment, which first became law in 1976, has been re-enacted in spending bills every year since it was first passed. It was left out of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law in March and again in the federal budget proposal released May 28. 

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations is currently looking at Hyde and other pro-life bills with the full House scheduled to weigh in at the end of the month.

To sign the online petition, voters can visit the NJCC website. In addition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asks the faithful to write to their representatives in Congress and has provided a template letter that can be found on the USCCB website or through the conference’s Action Alert link.

“The prohibition on taxpayer funding of elective abortion is a consensus policy that is supported by a majority of Americans,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop David J. Malloy, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in a joint statement.

According to statistics, more than 2.4 million people are alive today because of Hyde and other related laws.

In a July 1 letter to President Biden, 172 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote that eliminating the Hyde Amendment “is an affront to the majority of Americans who do not want their tax dollars funding abortion on demand resulting in the death of children in the womb.”

In addition to Hyde, the proposed federal budget also increases funding for abortion providers – domestically through Title X and internationally through the U.N. Population Fund, known as UNFPA. The budget also would repeal the Dornan and Smith amendments, which would prevent taxpayers from being forced to fund abortions in the District of Columbia and within the Federal Employees Health Benefit program.

The Smith Amendment, first enacted in 1983, was named for its sponsor, New Jersey’s Rep. Chris Smith. A Catholic Republican and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus, Rep. Smith has co-sponsored a bill to make the Hyde Amendment permanent since 2011.

(Rep. Smith is from the Trenton Diocese and attends St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.)

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

Jennifer Mauro is managing editor of Catholic Star Herald newspaper in the Diocese of Camden.