Acton Institute Powerblog

Nun: Abortion-funding stimulus is ‘the faithful answer’ to COVID-19

Sister Simone Campbell prays at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. (Photo credit: Screenshot.)

The Senate passed the “American Rescue Plan” on Saturday without the Hyde Amendment, a legislative rider that protects taxpayers from having to fund abortion-on-demand. However, a prominent Roman Catholic nun has celebrated the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, calling on “every single member of Congress” to vote for it and saying the abortion-funding measure makes strides toward “ending child poverty.”

The current version of the American Rescue Plan contains $414 billion in taxpayer dollars not subject to Hyde Amendment protections, possibly subjecting them to use on elective abortions or insurance plans that cover elective abortions in, e.g., COBRA insurance plans.

“The American Rescue Plan is the faithful answer to those in need,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. She also described the bill as “common good legislation.”

In addition to the domestic abortion funding, the bill “breaks with 47 years of congressional precedent by appropriating over $700 million of global health funds not subject to the Helms amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion abroad,” according to the Family Research Council.

It also boosts Title X funding by $50 million which, if Biden repeals the Trump-era Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, will become another revenue stream for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Sr. Campbell’s organization, Network, posted a message on Twitter on Monday to “celebrate” the bill’s passage. “This legislation protects vulnerable people,” Sr. Campbell said.

“I’m so proud of what we accomplished together,” Sr. Campbell added on Twitter.

In addition to being morally and ethically illicit, funding the violation of an unborn child’s unalienable right to life is (thankfully) politically unpopular. More than three-quarters of Americans, including 55% of Democrats, oppose taxpayer-funded abortions overseas, a recent Marist poll found. A majority of Americans, including one-third of Democrats, also oppose government funding of abortions in the U.S., as well.

The Hyde Amendment has guided U.S. abortion policy for more than four decades. Republican- and Democratic-controlled Congresses alike passed the measure, introduced by the late Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, each year since 1976. Commonsense restrictions on government spending have attracted a broad bipartisan coalition that has included President Jimmy Carter and, until June 2019, Joe Biden.

“The government should not tell those with strong convictions against abortion, such as you and I [sic], that we must pay for them [sic],” then-Senator Joe Biden once wrote to a constituent. “Those of us who are opposed to abortion[s] should not be compelled to pay for them.”

Not only does government funding of abortion force taxpayers to subsidize the intrinsically immoral action of the taking the life of a separate, distinct human being, it also increases the number of abortions performed annually. The laws of economics hold that government subsidies create perverse incentives. When the subject is abortion, taxpayer funds increase abortions.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved a total of 2,409,311 lives” between 1976 and 2020, according to the scholarship of pro-life scholar Michael J. New, visiting assistant professor of political science and social research at the Catholic University of America.

After Hyde, the birthrate among women on Medicaid increased by 13% in states where taxpayers no longer funded abortion. “[O]ne of every nine people born to a mother on Medicaid in a state not funding abortions through Medicaid owes his or her life to the Hyde Amendment,” writes New.

However, Sr. Campbell does not support the American Rescue Plan without reservation. “One critical piece failed to make it to the final version of this bill,” she said on Monday.

Unfortunately, she did not mean the Hyde Amendment; she meant the $15 minimum wage.

“Our Catholic faith calls us to insist that workers be able to support their families adequately on their salaries,” she said.

Yet “employment would be reduced by 1.4 million workers” if the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis released on February 8.

That’s a lower calculation than a 2019 CBO report on the same legislation, which found a $15 minimum wage would throw up to 3.7 million people out of work by 2025. Those millions would not be able to support their families at all, increasing government dependence – and contradicting Campbell’s stated reason for backing the policy.

Sr. Campbell suffers from the common misconception that the government can simply legislate economic reality. Yet the laws of economics do not yield to legislators’ intentions, whether good or ill. If the cost of labor increases to the point that it erases the employer’s profit margin, he will fire (or not hire new) employees.

Even if the American Rescue Plan lifted people out of poverty, rather than spending future generations further into debt, it would not merit the support of faithful Christians because of its abortion funding.

The Vatican made the moral calculus clear in a 2004 document titled Worthiness to Receive. “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia,” says the guidance, written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

It goes so far as to say that a priest or Eucharistic minister “must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone” who votes for or “take[s] part in a propaganda campaign in favour” of “civil laws that authorize or promote abortion.” Supporting publicly funded abortions will demonstrably increase the number of abortions.

Sr. Campbell’s proffered reason for supporting the bill is that the legislation offers a way to “take meaningful action to care for our struggling families by raising wages and ending child poverty.” She justifies her support of this legislation, as she did her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act, by saying that government economic interventions benefit “the least of these” – the same passage from Matthew 25 that government-expanding members of both parties invoked when expanding Obamacare coverage.

Her celebration of a bill that funds abortion-on-demand proves that church authorities who do not understand the laws of economics may become willing to sacrifice the least of these in the name of “the least of these.”

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and FrontPageMag.com, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at DailyWire.com, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout, CatholicVote.org, Issues & Insights, The Conservative, Rare.us, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are therightswriter.com and RevBenJohnson.com. His views are his own.