Catholic Groups Questioned About Support for Pro-Abortion Health Care Bills

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 29, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Groups Questioned About Support for Pro-Abortion Health Care Bills

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 29
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Three Catholic organizations are facing questions from pro-life advocates for their support for the current health care restructuring bills in Congress. Although Catholics traditionally support expanded health care coverage, they also hold fast to pro-life teachings against abortion.

That generate an inherent conflict whereby a government-run health care bill Catholic groups may normally endorse is generating opposition because there are no protections on abortion.

As currently written, both he House and Senate bills pave the way for taxpayer-funded abortions and insurance mandates on abortion.

Yet, Catholic Charities USA, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Catholic Health Association have banded together to promote the legislation.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities USA sent out an action alert asking members to contact their legislators immediately.

"Please call and e-mail your Representative in the next 24 hours expressing your support for Congress to enact health care reform now," the groups said in a joint action alert last week.

"Saint Vincent de Paul is partnering with Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association to amplify our collective voice to let Congress know that health care reform can not wait," that group says on its web site.

Catholic Charities adds: "While there are many details in the health reform bill(s) that still need to be developed, we must maintain momentum for health care reform efforts with calls and emails supporting health care reform immediately."

The statement continues, "Your members of Congress need to hear from you that you support health care reform, and that the system needs to be reformed now," they state."

The details, which are not fully explained, are amendments in both chambers of Congress that would stop abortion funding, mandates, violation of conscience rights for health care professionals, and making sure the health care package doesn’t overturn state pro-life laws.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made that clear when Bishop William Murphy wrote a letter, both to Congress and released to the public, saying abortion can’t be a part of health care reform.

"No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion," his letter said.

"Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation," it added.

Bishop Murphy went on to say, "Health care reform cannot be a vehicle for abandoning this consensus which respects freedom of conscience and honors our best American traditions."

Judie Brown, president of American Life League, a pro-life Catholic group, is up in arms about the statements she saw from the groups.

"All these organizations claim to be faithful to Catholic social teaching – which unambiguously and passionately puts respect for human personhood at the core of all other social and charitable works," Brown pointed out. "Yet these same organizations are undermining the very foundation they exist to protect and foster: the dignity of human persons and the sanctity of their right to life."

"There is no social justice in rationing charity," she said in a Wednesday statement received. "Millions of taxpayers will be forced to subsidize abortion, contraception, euthanasia and bureaucratic denial of health care to the poorest of the poor."

In an email recevied, Catholic Charities USA clarified and explained its position. The statement appears to come in response to the criticism.

"Catholic Charities USA has worked over many decades and continues to work for health care reform. This work is based on and guided by the Church’s social and moral teachings and informed by pastoral letters from the United States Bishops as well as the Papal Encyclicals," the group said.

Writing for the gorup, Kristan Schlichte said "the basis" for its work on health care is Murphy’s letter.

"Let there be no doubt, Catholic Charities USA does not support nor will it support any provision or amendment that fails to uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life," she said.

"Furthermore, we will continue to work with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association to ensure that any legislation will continue to support conscience clause protection for health care workers and to ensure that the Hyde exception that no abortion can be funded with federal funds will continue," she added.

The statement did not talk about how the current health care bills would expand abortion beyond the limits of the Hyde amendment.

The problem of fashioning a consistent pro-life response to the legislation in Congress received treatment in a Wednesday article in the National Catholic Register.

The respected publication said "the U.S. bishops have struggled to respond to the conflicting political signals and stay ahead of the curve on health-care reform."

It cited the Murphy statement from the Catholic bishops and said that its pro-life office "has issued a series of action plans designed to spur grassroots resistance to an abortion mandate and to any threats against the moral integrity of Catholic health institutions and providers."

But the Register went on to say that Richard Doerflinger, a long time pro-life leader at the USCCB, "reported that his office has delayed the release of any further action alerts until new proposals are carefully vetted."

“We don’t know what amendment we will be able to support,” Doerflinger told NCR.

He applauded the work of the National Right to Life Committee, perhaps the pro-life group that has been the most out front on the issue of abortion in health care reform. Yet, NRLC has backed dozens of amendments in committees in both the House and Senate to attempt to nullify the pro-abortion concerns the various health care bills present.

“Right now, these bills are a moving target,” Doerflinger told NCR. “But we will stay on top of it and continue to educate the public.”

Pro-life advocates hope all Catholic groups that are truly interested in protecting the rights of unborn children will do the same. Because, as Right to Life’s Douglas Johnson has explained, these health care bills could result in "the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade."

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