Catholic Health Association Enabled Obamacare, Now Opposes Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 15, 2012   |   6:48PM   |   Washington, DC

The Catholic Health Association came under heavy criticism during the debate leading up tot he passage of Obamacare by signing off on the controversial legislation and taking a contrary position to pro-life groups the nation’s Catholic bishops by erroneously claiming it would not lead to abortion funding.

Now, the Catholic Health Association has publicly come out in opposition to the revised HHS mandate the Obama administration put in place that will require religious groups to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in their employees’ health plans. The group said today that it disagrees with the Obama administration’s requirement on religious groups making them provide birth control and abortion-causing drugs as a free preventive service.

As the Associated Press reports:

In a letter to the federal Health and Human Services department, the hospital group said the compromise initially seemed to be “a good first step” but that examination of the details proved disappointing. The plan would be “unduly cumbersome” to carry out and “unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns” of all its members, the group said.

In its letter, the group said the government should either broaden the exemption for religious employers, or pay directly for the birth control coverage.

With the Catholic Health Association now voicing concerns, opponents gained a powerful endorsement. There was no immediate reaction from the Obama administration.

The association represents about 600 hospitals and hundreds of nursing homes and other health-related organizations, totaling 2,000 members around the country. One of every six patients is cared for in a Catholic hospital.

The Catholic Health Association infuriated the pro-life Catholic community when it endorsed the Obamacare bill that failed to sufficiently protect against taxpayer funding of abortions.

The legislation, which also presents conscience concerns and rationing problems for the multitude of pro-life groups that opposed it, got the thumbs up from CHA that ultimately gave political cover to former Rep. Bart Stupak and a handful of “pro-life Democrats” who voted for final version of the abortion-funding legislation in the House.

In what one pro-life advocate said was a kickback for CHA, President Barack Obama appointed one of its legal leaders to a spot as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The White House, in an email received then, announced new members to the council and Sister Marlene Weisenbeck was among the new appointees. She is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of La Crosse, Wisconsin. But she is also the chair of the Catholic Health Association’s Sponsorship/Canon Law Committee and is a consultant in religious law.

Matt K of the Badger Catholic blog responded to the Obama appointment of Weisenbeck.

“Frantic for power and prestige, these sisters lead by Weisenbeck publicly opposed the Catholic Church’s long held teaching that every life is sacred,” he said. “I was told that Weisenbeck was called to Rome after that debacle which it seems has not affected her interest in pursuing her political career.  Obviously this appointment tells the real story behind her opposition of pro-life efforts and the USCCB.  She scratches Obama’s back and he scratches hers.”

In addition to her role with the pro-Obamacare CHA, Weisenbeck was one of the three dozen Christian “leaders” who signed on to a statement in December 2009 supporting a fake abortion funding compromise Sen. Bob Casey introduced that pro-life groups strenuously opposed during the debate leading up to the health care reform bill votes.

The National Right to Life Committee said the proposal “completely fails to correct any of the major pro-abortion provisions in the underlying Reid bill.”

“We believe that your proposed language in no way improves the highly objectionable provisions of the Reid bill that authorize subsidies for health plans that cover elective abortion, and that authorize federal mandates for private health plans to cover elective abortion,” the group told Casey at the time. “Under your language, federal funds would be used to pay the premiums of private health plans that pay for elective abortion on demand, for tens of millions of Americans. This is completely unacceptable.”



The nation’s Catholic bishops also panned the Casey proposal Weisenbeck endorsed.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said in a statement obtained that the legislation will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment.

“Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”

In an effort to reduce some of the criticism it received, the Catholic Health Association endorsed a measure that would remove the abortion funding from the Obamcare legislation.