Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he disagrees with the Catholic Church’s opposition to taxpayer dollars being used for abortion services.
Kennedy joined other Democratic lawmakers on a conference call to advocate for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the federal funding of abortion excluding cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger. Congress has included the amendment in appropriations bills since 1976.
PJM asked Kennedy how he responds to his constituents who object to the federal funding of abortion on religious grounds.
“I think the teaching out of the Catholic Church has always resonated with me personally and one of the central core tenants of that is the concept of human dignity. And I think, I believe, a big portion of this debate is about the dignity of everybody, particularly women, and part of that is with respect to their own decisions and with respect to their medical care. This is a point obviously where the church and I disagree,” Kennedy said on Wednesday’s conference call.
“However, it is also a point where I think we are seeing throughout our society as well – you know, I think, two points: one, the idea that as a member of government, just because the religious teachings of the church that I affiliate with doesn’t put me in a position to dictate those teachings to my constituents or others,” he added.
Kennedy argued that religious objections to abortion should not be used to inflict harm on others. He said there is a connection between the Hyde Amendment and religious freedom.
“The overall debate we are having around religion and religious freedom, I at least believe – and we’ve got legislation that touches on this and I go out and talk about it and try to discuss this issue and say, look, you want the ability to exercise your religious beliefs as a fundamental tenant of the country, and it’s celebrated and continues to be celebrated and is protected by the Constitution,” Kennedy said.
“The exercise thereof, though, should not be used to inflict harm on somebody else, and that harm and dignitary harm particularly impacts healthcare and a women’s right to make her own healthcare choices,” he added.
Kennedy along with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) support the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance or EACH Woman Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment.
“Politicians have no business interfering with a woman’s personal health decisions just because of her income,” Lee said. “This has emboldened anti-choice activists, really pushed the envelope to further restrict women’s access to care over the last six years. Republicans in state legislatures have fallen over themselves to pass an astounding 334 new abortion restrictions.”
Lee said abortion restrictions on the state and federal level “prevent women from exercising their constitutional right” and make the negative impacts of the Hyde Amendment “even worse.”