House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday invoked her Catholic faith to justify repeal of the so-called Hyde Amendment, a prohibition on federal funding of most abortions.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, made her comments after majority Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee passed a funding measure sans the Hyde Amendment, after rejecting a GOP push to include it. In addition, the committee also passed a foreign aid bill that did not include the Helms Amendment, which is a prohibition of federal funding for abortions abroad.
Pelosi was asked about the measures on Thursday after they both passed out of committee.
“It passed in committee,” she said. “We think it is the right thing to do. It is something that many of us have been concerned about for a long time as an issue of health, as an issue of fairness, and we will send the bills over to the Senate. We’ll see.”
First passed in 1976, three years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion bans in all 50 states, the amendment is named after then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). Initially, the amendment, which was passed on a vote to override the veto of a funding bill for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now called the Department of Health and Human Services), banned federal funding of abortions “except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.” In 1993 under then-President Bill Clinton, the Hyde Amendment was altered to also include funding for abortions in cases of rape or incest.
The Helms Amendment, named for then-GOP Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, was first passed in 1973 in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Reporters continued to press Pelosi on why she believes both amendments should be canceled.
“Because it’s an issue of health of many women in America, especially those in lower-income situations and in different states, and it is something that has been a priority for many of us a long time,” Pelosi responded.
“As a devout Catholic and mother of five in six years, I feel that God blessed my husband and me with our beautiful family, five children, and six years almost to the day, but it’s not up to me to dictate that that’s what other people should do,” she continued. “And it’s an issue of fairness and justice for poor women in our country.”
Officials with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops previously called on lawmakers to keep the Hyde Amendment in the appropriations bill before being passed out of committee. If the slim majority of Democrats in both chambers of Congress pass both spending bills, it will be the first time since the mid-1970s that the amendments were not part of the federal budget.
But the exclusion of the Hyde Amendment faces long odds in the evenly-divided Senate, as already there is a bipartisan effort to save it. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) have asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure the Hyde Amendment is included in their spending bill that will be voted on in the coming weeks.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who presides over Pelosi’s district, told the Daily Caller in May he has had “conversations” with the Speaker about not receiving Holy Communion at Mass because she supports abortion, against the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion,” Cordileone noted in his document, “Before I Formed You In The Womb, I Knew You.”
“When other avenues are exhausted, the only recourse a pastor has left is the public medicine of temporary exclusion from the Lord’s Table. This is a bitter medicine, but the gravity of the evil of abortion can sometimes warrant it,” he added.
“I have had such conversations with Speaker Pelosi, she knows that I stand by Church teaching, and I know she’s respectful enough not to do anything so provocative,” he continued.
Some Republicans also criticized Democrats for ditching the amendments.
“I do recognize that the issue of abortion is emotionally charged and that many Americans have differing points of view,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said. “But even for Americans who consider themselves pro-choice on this issue, many if not most don’t believe tax dollars should be used for abortion.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky invoked President Joe Biden’s name in pushing back.
“For decades, nearly his entire career, then-Senator Joe Biden was a reliable supporter of Hyde protections,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday. “But a couple of years ago on the presidential campaign trail, our former colleague changed his tune. He let the demands of the increasingly radical left overcome a principle he had held literally for decades.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California added that for 44 years “both parties have agreed the Hyde Amendment is the law of the land.”
“Today the Democrat Party has shown just how radical they have become,” he continued.
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