Catholic Bishops Oppose Senate Health Care Bill Because of Abortion Funding

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Oppose Senate Health Care Bill Because of Abortion Funding

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 23
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The nation’s Catholic bishops have sent another letter to members of Congress following the deal struck between senators Harry Reid and Ben Nelson to fund abortions under the health care bill. The bishops say the current health care reform bill is "deficient" and should not move forward without "essential changes."

The chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the new letter to senators yesterday.

The chairs, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, of the Committee on Migration, signed off on the letter.

The legislative proposal now advancing “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions — a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment as well as in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — and now in the House-passed ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’” the bishops said.

They said that the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives “keeps in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions” and “ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.”

But they noted the Senate bill does not maintain this commitment.

In the Senate version, “federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions,” the bishops said.

“All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium check payment designed solely to pay for abortion," they noted. "There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions.”

The bishops also noted that there is a public consensus against abortion funding, saying the new Quinnipiac University survey released yesterday shows 72 percent opposed to public funding of abortion in health care reform legislation.

“This bill also continues to fall short of the House-passed bill in preventing governmental discrimination against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion,” the bishops said.

And it also “includes no conscience protection allowing Catholic and other institutions to provide and purchase health coverage consistent with their moral and religious convictions on other procedures.”

The bishops urged Congress and the Obama Administration to “fashion health care reform legislation that truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all.”

Until the abortion and conscience issues are resolved, “in all the areas of our moral concern, the Senate health care reform bill is deficient," their letter states.

Ultimately the bishops oppose the health care bill because of its pro-abortion provisions.

"On the issue of respect for unborn human life, the bill not only falls short of the House’s standard but violates longstanding precedent in all other federal health programs. Therefore we believe the Senate should not move this bill forward at this time but continue to discuss and approve changes that could make it morally acceptable. Until these fundamental flaws are remedied the bill should be opposed," they write.

“Regardless of the outcome in the Senate, we will work vigorously to incorporate into the final legislation our priorities for upholding abortion and conscience rights and longstanding current prohibitions on abortion funding," they conclude. “We hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine reform.”

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