Battle Over Abortion Funding in Congress Pits Catholics Against Each Other

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 4, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Battle Over Abortion Funding in Congress Pits Catholics Against Each Other

by Deal Hudson
January 4, 2010 Note: Deal W. Hudson is the director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture and, and is the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).

The present standoff over abortion funding in health-care reform pits two sets of Catholics against each other: The bishops, supported by pro-life leaders, zealously oppose abortion funding, while prominent Catholic members of Congress just as zealously promote it.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi leads the pro-abortion Catholic pack pushing hard for abortion funding in the health-care bill. Her 100 percent rating from NARAL should dispel any misconception about her decision to allow a vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment: It was political expediency, pure and simple.

As if to assure her pro-abortion supporters before the final vote, Pelosi told Newsweek in a recent interview that the Church’s position on abortion denies women the "opportunity to exercise their free will." Somewhere in her Catholic education, Pelosi evidently missed the lesson that moral rules are both possible and necessary because we have free will.

Pelosi’s pro-abortion partner is another Catholic, Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-CT), who is always close at hand when members of Congress bash the Church for its stance on life issues. De Lauro said of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, "It takes away that same freedom of conscience from America’s women. It prohibits them from access to an abortion even if they pay for it with their own money. It invades women’s personal decisions."

A few days ago, De Lauro told the Huffington Post that she might be willing to support the abortion language of the Senate bill. This is a significant admission, since she is one of the House members assigned to work out the abortion language on the final version of the bill. She’s falsely claiming that the Senate bill is "abortion neutral," that it maintains the current law. "Abortion neutral" is the favorite mantra being used by all the pro-abortion Catholics supporting this bill, including Pelosi, Catholics United, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The Catholic bishops don’t buy that argument. They recognize the Senate version of the bill is far from neutral and a direct violation of the Hyde Amendment, since it mandates government subsidies for private insurance plans covering abortion. There are additional problems with the bill, such as the lack of conscience protections, but the bill gives power to the White House to require insurance companies to pay for abortions.

This last threat is the product of an amendment by leader of pro-abortion Catholics in the Senate, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

The Mikulski Amendment to the heath-care bill, passed by the Senate on December 3, presents another avenue for federal funding for abortion by wrapping it under "preventative care" of "women’s health." As National Right to Life has pointed out, Mikulski’s amendment would give the executive branch "sweeping authority to define services that private health plans must cover, merely by declaring a given service to constitute ‘preventive care,’ then that authority could be employed in the future to require all health plans to cover abortions."

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Mikulski in the Senate are three other pro-abortion Catholics: John Kerry (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), all of whom have gone on the record supporting expansion of federal funding for abortion. Health-care reform is the opportunity they and other pro-abortion Catholics have been hoping for. Sadly, 15 Catholic Senators voted against an amendment that would have excluded abortion funding from the Senate bill.

Given the scandalous record of Catholics in Congress on life issues, it should come as no surprise that the presence of abortion funding in the health-care bill is largely the product of pro-abortion Catholics determined to overcome the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.

If the health-care bill passes in its present form and is signed by President Obama, the Church will have to bear a portion of the blame. It’s not merely a matter of how hard the USCCB presses its case with the 111th Congress; the chain of cause and effect goes back decades and runs through universities, colleges, chanceries, schools, parishes, homes, and, of course, the USCCB itself.

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