Catholic Bishops Urge Congress to Maintain Ban on Using Tax Dollars to Pay for Abortions in D.C.

By Fadia Galindo | July 8, 2009 | 9:14 PM EDT

Musician Jon Bon Jovi, right, and Cardinal Justin Rigali appear at a news conference on Wednesday, July, 8, 2009. (AP photo)

( – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is calling on the House Appropriations Committee to reverse action by one of its subcommittees – and reinstate the ban on federal funding for abortion in the District of Columbia.

In a June 30 letter addressed to the committee, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, urged committee members to reverse the actions of one its subcommittees, which last month effectively repealed the ban, known as the Dornan Amendment.
“No lawmaker or Administration can support such a policy change and still claim to support 'reducing abortions,'" Rigali stated in his letter.
Rigali, the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, noted that the subcommittee on financial services and general government, chaired by Rep José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), didn’t totally eliminate the Dornan Amendment, which has been around since 1989, but successfully gutted it.
“Instead of continuing to bar use of all congressionally appropriated funds for such abortions, the subcommittee narrowed the ban to cover only 'federal' funds so 'local' funds may be used for abortions without limit or restraint,” the cardinal wrote.
“Because Congress controls and must appropriate all public funds for the District of Columbia, this distinction is a bookkeeping exercise only: The impact in terms of human lives will be exactly the same as if the amendment were reversed in its entirety,” Cardinal Rigali added.
Rigali’s letter mentioned June 26 comments by the archbishop of Washington, D.C., Donald Wuerl, who had objected to the action by the Appropriations subcommittee. 

“First, public funding of abortion is rejected by the American people, as numerous surveys of public opinion have shown,” Wuerl stated.

Cardinal Rigali also referred to a Catholic national campaign, in which he said “tens of millions of postcards” were sent out to Capitol Hill in opposition to the “Freedom of Choice Act.”

He added that “evidence is overwhelming and universally recognized by groups on all sides of the abortion issue, that the availability of public funds for abortion greatly increases abortions.”

Rigali cited a study from the Alan Guttmacher Institute which found the abortion rate of women covered by Medicaid had increased significantly from “35 abortions per 1,000 women to 89 per 1,000.”

The cardinal also claimed that reversing the Dornan amendment would “increase the distrust of reform efforts” made by the current health-care legislation.

“This is the worst of all possible times to be injecting the divisive issue of public abortion funding in the debate on government health policy,” Cardinal Rigali wrote.
The repeal of the Dornan amendment took place during subcommittee consideration of the appropriations bill for FY2010.