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Members of the diocesan community are being encouraged to join Catholics nationwide in speaking out against the repeal of legislation that protects taxpayer dollars from being used to fund elective abortions.

“It is so important for people in our parishes to learn about the Hyde Amendment and the life-saving, conscience-protecting impact it has had for the past 45 years. Without this protection, our federal tax dollars will contribute to millions more abortions around our nation and beyond,” said Rachel Hendricks, diocesan Respect Life coordinator.

The Hyde Amendment, which first became law in 1976, prohibits use of federal Medicaid dollars for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered. Named for former Representative Henry Hyde, (R-Ill.), the amendment is renewed every year as part of the appropriations bill for what is now the Department of Health and Human Services.

It was excluded, however, in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law March 11 by President Joe Biden.

As a senator, the president had a long history of voting for the Hyde Amendment. In January, he was quoted as attributing a change in stance to Republican efforts to limit access to abortion, including those aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade.

According to statistics, since its inception, approximately 2.4 million babies have been spared from abortion by the Hyde Amendment and other related laws. In addition, a 2002 study by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute found that the abortion rate among Medicaid-eligible women when their home state pays for abortions is four times higher than the rate of other women. Before the Hyde Amendment went into effect, the federal Medicaid program was paying for almost 300,000 abortions a year for low-income women.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who represents New Jersey’s 4th congressional district, again introduced a bill to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Smith – a Catholic Republican, Hamilton native and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus – has co-sponsored this anti-abortion bill since 2011.

"When federal taxpayer dollars are not available to help effectuate the demise of unborn babies, lives are saved," Smith said in early February. "Abortion violence must be replaced with compassion and empathy for women and for defenseless unborn baby girls and boys."

A staunch opponent of abortion, Rep. Smith cited key findings of a Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll released Jan. 27 that showed:

• Fifty-eight percent of Americans oppose using taxpayer money to fund abortions within the United States.

• More than three quarters of Americans (76 percent) want significant restrictions on abortion.

• Seventy-seven percent of those polled either "oppose" or "strongly oppose" using tax dollars to support international abortion (This was up from 75 percent who answered similarly each of the past two years.)

In addition, the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging Catholics to sign the petition to oppose the Hyde Amendment’s repeal at https://www.notaxpayerabortion.com/ or https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/home.

Look for more updates from the diocesan Respect Life Ministry on social media at https://www.facebook.com/RespectLifeMinistryDioceseOfTrenton.

Information from Catholic News Service contributed to this report.