Keeping Health Care Universal

This is a very significant week for a cause championed by an overwhelming majority of Americans: health care reform. Our prayers are with our president and elected officials in D.C. as they work hard at bringing about a bill that is just and good for the country we love.

Thoughtful Catholics are especially attentive to this effort, but we find ourselves in a tough spot.

On the one hand, we are enthusiastic about universal health care. The Catholic community in the United States, led by brave sisters, have been on the front line of tending lovingly for the sick and frail for centuries, way before government ever got into it.  The bishops have been advocating universal health care for nearly a century. So, we sure want to see it work, and appreciate the efforts of the president and both parties in Congress to bring it home.

On the other hand, we’re worried.  Health care, we insist, has to be truly universal. That means everybody – the baby in the womb, his or her mother, the poor, the immigrant, and our elders until natural death.

So, although there’s a lot for us to cheer about, especially a provision for expectant mothers in the Senate’s version – which, if I understand correctly, is what the president and many of the majority party are promoting – there remains a grave concern: that our money will be used for abortion.

For the last three-and-a-half decades, the only legal protection the unborn baby could count on was the Hyde Amendment, guaranteeing that no tax money could pay for an abortion.  Simply put, this provision has to be assured in any bill.  If not, health care would not be universal at all.

That’s why we were so relieved when the president himself stated that no federal money should ever pay for an abortion, and that he had no plan to tamper with the status quo on abortion.

That’s why we applauded when the House bill assured precisely this in the Stupak Amendment.

But – and here’s the alarm – the Senate bill has been gutted of such a guarantee.  We’re worried, because a cause we very much welcome has become ominous, and could be unacceptable.

Our analysis, made in broad consultation with partners from other faiths and with an array of health providers, is that the Senate version does not reflect the protections of the Hyde Amendment.

Some others, even a few Catholic observers, tell us not to worry, because the Senate bill would keep the protection of Hyde in place.  Good.  Then they will not mind an explicit mention of it, or even the language of the Stupak or Casey amendments.

All we ask is that the bill be consistent with the president’s assurances, that the abortion license will not be extended, and that the decades-long protection of the Hyde Amendment continue.

We’re not the obstructionists here, since all we’re insisting upon is that the understanding that tax money not pay for abortions, in place since 1975, remains.

It is instead those who have radically altered the debate to open a loophole to eliminate the Hyde Amendment who are risking the very fate of this legislation.

It’s so easy: just say straight-out that the Hyde amendment is still in place.

That keeps health care universal.


10 Responses to “Keeping Health Care Universal”

  1. Bev says:

    Archbishop Dolan- how can you be so flippant about the public funding of abortion, of the government take over of healthcare, can you really be so impressed with any “good” you see in this president? He chooses to transform our America to what? and with what guidance? He laughs at the catholic church and all God fearing people. I am shocked at your complacent stance but do hope that your particular prayers include “fighting the good fight”.

  2. Msgr Michael Crimmins says:

    Absolutely perfect balance of concerns. The Church at New York is proud! MC

  3. Carol says:

    While it might be good practice to give people the benefit of the doubt in most situations, I feel it is dangerously naive for us to approach the current Senate bill this way. I fear that if we do, we will sadly discover that we will have been duped – and the damage might be irreparable.

    I have always believd that one cannot trust a person’s words alone, but rather, one must see how the person acts as well. If the proposed Senate bill were a good one, why have there been so many closed door meetings, such lack of clarity and frank open discussion, and so many special deals being made? Has the average citizen in our country been informed in a clear and straightforward way about what the bill actually contains and how it would affect him or her?

    In addition, President Obama’s record on life issues before his election has not demonstrated a commitment to protecting life – just the opposite. He is on record as having stated, again before his election, that passing the Freedom of Choice Act, an antilife proposal, would be something he would hope to accomplish. Can we believe that any of his views on these matters have really changed, just because he may have said so? What financial backing has he and other party leaders received from groups like Planned Parenthood, etc., and how might that impact this legislation?

    Another serious concern I have is that, while such a bill may be touted as helping the poor, I am not sure that this will actually be the case. What additional financial burdens will be placed on all Americans to pay the costs of such a program? Of even greater concern is what will be the human toll, in quality of care, protection for the elderly, unborn, disabled, and terminally ill, etc.? What about freedom of conscience protection for health care providers? The list of concerns goes on and on.

    I believe that the Senate bill is not merely a one-issue concern by any means. Therefore, it requires scrutiny, open debate, and a willingness to make adjustments where needed in language that is clear and unambiguous.

  4. Ralph says:

    Archbishop Dolan
    Your blog entry and the above responsive posting motivated me to read a number of the references cited, which was a helpful exercise. Thank you.

    Though a lawyer by profession, it’s clear to me the intracacies of the statutes and bills involved are too complex and numerous for me to do a completely independent analysis. Given that reality, in making my own judgment I am forced, at least in part, to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses as they express themselves on this issue. I don’t often speak out, but in this case I felt a need to make a few points about where that exercise has left me:
    1) The reasoning in the 3/12 response to Professor Jost’s earlier memo is concise and clear. I am told with specificity what language is objected to and why it is objectionable. I am not left wondering where the wiggle words are, nor am I taken on a meandering path.
    2) The 3/14 memo is not fully responsive to the 3/12 memo it seeks to answer, is less clear and less persuasive. For some issues, the original argument is merely restated, without addressing the specific objection of the bishops in the 3/12 memo. Some arguments are speculative as to what markets will do or what state lawmakers will do at some future time if the Senate bill is passed. In addition, instead of narrowing the issues by focusing in on what’s really bothering the UCCCB, the 3/14 memo blurs the issues by pointing to provisions not at issue with the bishops.
    3) The underlying message and motivation of the 3/14 memo, as most clearly stated in the last paragraph, is this “We can’t win this fight, so we may as well cut our losses.” In other words, “blink”.

    I’m glad you’re not blinking. Thank you.

  5. John McCarthy says:

    Dear Archbishop Timothy,

    Now that your fellow bishops have spoken, I know you will join them in opposing this terrible bill.

  6. Mary says:

    This week we are face to face on the battlefield with the Culture of Death. Their philosophy of life is best revealed by holdout Bart Stupak who revealed that he was recently told “If you pass the Stupak Amendment, more children will be born and therefore it will cost us millions more. ”

    Unfortunately for all of us, the bill IS universal — in its treachery. Whether you’re old or young, immigrant, born, unborn, disabled, healthy, no matter whether you have a conscience or not— it permits Government to take control of our bodies from conception until death. Womb to tomb as we used to say. There is no regard for the dignity of human life in any of it. Does deceit get any more demonic? Can it get any more unCatholic?

    We had the Senate version passed on Christmas Eve. I bet this one goes to Good Friday. The Culture of Death can’t help itself. But Catholics can.

    I was thinking about all this healthcare turmoil yesterday on my way to Mass and despairing that anything could stop this evil legislation. As soon as I got into Church I thought of the gospel of Christ asleep in the boat (on a cushion!) while a storm is raging and the apostles are so terrified they wake Him up. And He says to them: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And I was calmed.

  7. Cathy says:

    To be honest Archbishop Dolan, that our Bishops ever entrusted or promoted health care reform to an administration they felt compelled to send postcards to opposing FOCA fills me with an enthusiastic mortal dread. What I really want to know is what my mama bear plans to do about Obamacare if this abomination of a plan passes?

    Thanks and God bless you!


  8. Jason M. Molitor says:

    Unfortunately they can’t tell us that Abortion is not part of the bill because it has been all along. These people think it is healthcare and unfortunately they don’t seem like they are going to listen to anyone at the moment.

    I keep praying that the “proud will fall” and all that stuff…but at the end of it all I’m just praying that God’s will be done.

    Keep up the great work and take it to them!

  9. Mary says:

    This story. CATHOLIC NUNS URGE PASSAGE OF OBAMAS HEALTH BILL. from today’s Washington Post leads me to think that our Church is going to rupture over healthcare:

    By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR The Associated Press Wednesday, March 17, 2010; 10:14 AM

    WASHINGTON — Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.

    Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don’t go far enough.

    The letter says that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and “this is the real pro-life stance.” ….
    I hope I’m wrong. But this is a spiritual earthquake about to shake our Catholic faith. Here are nuns on one side who put their hope in the government and a political party; here are lay people like myself who cannot obey a law that requires we pay for abortion.

    What’s next if this bill passes? We will be a flock scattered to the winds? Will we invoke the Manhattan Declaration? What will our Church do?

  10. White Flood says:

    Hi, nice write-up. As we all know, the healthcare reform bill passed. A lot of questions still remain, but one thing we all know is that it’s going to cost this country a lot of money. I own a small business and I’m concerned about the increase in taxes. I want to hire more employees, but this law makes that very hard for us little guys. Here’s the problem: If it’s hard for us to hire people, how will this economy come back? Anyhow… cool blog… I’m subscribed to your RSS feed now so I’ll be checking in regularly!