Catholic Bishops Did Not Support Obamacare Repeal Vote

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 20, 2011   |   2:49PM   |   Washington, DC

Every major national pro-life organization was on board with the vote by House Republicans to repeal the Obamacare law because they worry about the abortion funding and rationing the law promotes. But the national’s Catholic bishops are not on the same page, this time.

Although they strongly opposed passage of Obamacare last year after pro-life advocates were not successful in getting an amendment added to the final version of the bill to mitigate the abortion-funding and conscience concerns for medical workers, the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says the bishops will move in a new direction on repeal efforts.

In a letters sent to lawmakers on Tuesday, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the new pro-life president of the USCCB, and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, head of the bishop’s pro-life outreach, outlined the agenda of the bishops and indicated they will pursue changes to the Obamacare law, such as a bill to remove abortion funding from it, rather than a wholesale repeal.

“Rather than joining efforts to support or oppose the repeal of the recently enacted health care law, we will continue to devote our efforts to correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be life-affirming for all,” DiNardo wrote.

Dolan said he “hopes that this newly elected Congress will advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices.”

“We offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action,” the archbishop said. “We hope to offer a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion about the values and policies that will shape our nation’s future. We seek to work together with our nation’s leaders to advance the common good of our society.”

The letter outlined the goals the bishops will continue pursuing on health care:  renewed opposition to public funding of abortion and support for pregnant women to carry out their pregnancies, health care for all Americans, and responding to the serious human consequences and significant moral dimensions of the economic challenges the nation faces.

The bishops’ leaders wrote that any action taken by Congress on health care reform should “retain longstanding requirements that effectively protect conscience right and that prohibit use of federal funds for elective abortion or plans that include them” and “ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all.”

The Dolan letter read:

Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill.  We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death.  Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground, reducing the number of abortions by providing compassionate and morally sound care for pregnant women and their unborn children.  We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion.  We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion.  The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions, and should be codified in permanent law.  Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars pose a serious moral challenge, and Congress should act to ensure that health care reform does not become a vehicle for such funding.

DiNardo’s letter added:

In the 111th Congress, H.R. 5111 was introduced by Congressmen Pitts and Lipinski to ensure that the new health care law will maintain longstanding federal policies on abortion in the areas of federal funding and conscience rights.  H.R. 6570 was also introduced by Congressman Fortenberry to ensure that all people — Catholics and others alike — maintain their current ability under federal law to provide and purchase health coverage that is consistent with their faith and values. We will strongly support laws like these in the new Congress and we will seek ways to ensure a more just health care system for immigrant families.

We will advocate for addressing the current problems in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as others that may become apparent in the course of its implementation.