Posts Tagged ‘Health Care Reform’

An Open Letter on the “Compromise”

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

(The following is an open letter signed by several prominent intellectuals, in response to the Administration’s “compromise”.  It is an important and cogent summary of the significance of that proposal, so I offer it to you in its entirety.  It was originally posted here.)

Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

Signed:

John Garvey
President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead
Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin
Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

A Lesson from History

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

A few days ago, I said that the campaign to undermine the Church’s opposition to the contraception mandate would eventually involve this:

there will be “gotcha” moments where the advocates will lead the media to agencies that are already complying with similar mandates under protest, and imply that we don’t really mean what we say.

I can rarely predict the future with accuracy.  In this case, I was proven right within two days.

The Times has “discovered” that some Catholic agencies have been forced to comply with New York State’s contraception mandate law.  By this, they undoubtedly mean to imply that the HHS mandate is no big deal, since we “can live with it”.

The Times didn’t report the history of the New York State law, but it is instructive to recall it here, if we are going to understand what is happening now.

The “Women’s Health and Wellness Act” was signed into law in 2002.  It was a wide-reaching bill that dealt with many areas of women’s health care.  The Church very much wanted to support the bill, except for one thing — it contained a requirement that all employee health insurance plans cover contraception.  In the years leading up to its passage, the Church tried to convince the legislature to provide our agencies with a reasonable exemption.  In the end, we failed, and the law was passed with a very narrow exemption that is virtually the same as the one in the HHS mandate.

The Church, together with a number of other religious groups of other faiths, challenged the law in court, arguing that it violated our religious freedom.  We took the case all the way up to the New York State of Appeals, where we lost.  We even appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear our case.

Faced with a final judgement that the law would stand, Church agencies were in a quandary.  Some chose to comply under protest.  Others sought refuge under exemptions that were available under federal law.  But one truth remains — the Church continues to maintain that the law violates our religious liberty, even though many of our agencies reluctantly obey it.

In the real world, that is what happens when someone is faced with a law that they consider unjust.  I wish that I didn’t have to pay for abortion on demand with my tax dollars.  But what choice do I have, but to pay my taxes grudgingly?  I am the primary support for my family, and I don’t want to be fined, go to jail, or be disbarred. Just because I pay my taxes, doesn’t mean that I consent to abortion on demand or approve of it.  I bitterly resent that my tax dollars are being used to pay for the killing of unborn children.  I have advocated for corrective legislation.  It is, and always will be an injustice, even though I unwillingly obey the law.

This is an important point.  We need to learn from history.

Back in the day when there were established churches, everyone was required to belong to that church.  If they didn’t belong, they were penalized in various ways, the least of which was being forced to pay tithes (which is a tax or penalty — you pay it to the government, which uses it to fund a religion that you don’t believe in).  If you want a flavor of how this worked in practice, check out the ugly history of the Irish Penal Laws.

Of course, everyone had to obey or risk being sent to jail, so they grit their teeth, grudgingly paid their tithes, and managed to survive by keeping their complaints to themselves to avoid any trouble.

Then, they couldn’t wait until they could emigrate to America to be free from all that.

Hence the First Amendment, and the similar provision of every single state constitution.  Hence our reverence for pioneers of religious liberty like Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and William Penn.  Hence our opposition to the HHS mandate, and similar laws.

We need to learn from this history.  The fact that one has no choice but to obey an unjust law, because of fear of the consequences, doesn’t render the injustice any less galling and oppressive.

 

That’s a “Compromise”? Seriously?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

So now the Administration has offered what they call a “compromise” on the HHS contraception and abortion mandate.

In their initial comment, the Bishops have said that they need to study the proposal, and are hoping that it is a first step towards a genuine resolution of this problem.

Of course, as I’ve noted before, the whole notion of “compromise” means that you actually consult with others and come to a mutually agreed-upon settlement.  But the President apparently thinks that “spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option”.  So, instead, we have yet another ukase from our rulers, dressed up in the guise of a “reasonable accommodation”.

But it is nothing of the kind.

There are no details available that would allow us to evaluate the actual content of the proposal.  The Administration says that it will publish rules later today, and will defer some decisions until some time in the future.  Instead, we have a press release plus lots of political spin, where all the usual suspects are trotted out to try to put out the political fires that the Administration has brought upon itself.

Given the lack of details, we can’t tell if the key questions have been addressed:

  • How will they define a “religious employer”?  If there are any conditions on what kind of organizations will qualify as “religious”, based on the purpose of the organization is or the religious beliefs of the employees or clients, then it is still clearly unacceptable.
  • What kind of information will have to be provided to the employees? Will the employer be forced to refer people directly to contraception providers?  Will they be required to inform employees about what kind of contraceptive services are available from the insurance company?  Either way, it would force religious organizations to say things that are contrary to their beliefs.
  • Is there any provision for non-religious employers or individuals who do not want to subsidize abortion, sterilization or contraception?  Individuals have rights under the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — will they be ignored?
  • Given the Administration’s track record in this area, I personally expect that none of these questions will be answered in a way that is favorable to respect for human life and religious liberty.

    Perhaps the most cynical part of the proposal is the economics.  I cannot believe that anyone in the Administration is so naive about fundamental principles of economics that they think there is any such thing as a free lunch.  And yet, they claim that individuals will be able to obtain services free of charge, without the religious employer paying for them, because the insurance company will have to foot the entire bill.

    What, can insurance companies print money now, just as the government does, to cover deficits?

    Don’t they understand that the insurance companies will just pass the costs of these “free” services on to the employers, other employees, doctors, and ultimately taxpayers?  This is not that hard a concept.  In the real world, religious employers and individuals will still be compelled to pay for offensive services like sterilizations and early abortions — but the Administration is asking us to look the other way and pretend that it’s not happening.

    Since the Administration has shown no real interest in “compromise” in any meaningful sense, we may have reached a point where there is really no alternative.  All people who care about religious freedom and the defense of human life should unite in pressing Congress to pass an authentic conscience protection bill (like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012). And we need to support either repeal or fundamental changes to the tainted tree that has borne this ugly fruit — the health care law as a whole.

    A Strange Notion of “Compromise”

    Thursday, February 9th, 2012

    I’ve been following politics my whole life.  I understand the politicians live in a different world than the rest of us.  But is still surprises me when they work from a different dictionary.

    We’re talking now about the Administration and their mandate that all employers, including Catholic institutions, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception — free of charge.

    Having inadvertently dragged the Church into electoral year politics, the Administration has now started talking about “compromise” to take some of the heat off.  To most normal people, the word “compromise” means that people sit down, talk to each other as equals, and try to work out something that will respect each other’s beliefs and values.  An online dictionary defines it as “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions”.

    But the Administration seems to think that the word means “surrender your values, be quiet, and do what we tell you”.

    We’ve seen some of these “compromise” laws in other states, and they don’t resemble anything a normal person would consider to be a genuine “settlement of differences by mutual concessions”.  All of them run roughshod over religious liberty, and merely dress up the morally offensive mandate in slightly different clothing, in hopes that people won’t recognize it.  Here’s why:

  • The government cannot be in the business of defining what is a church and what is not.  The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment specifically forbids the government from picking its favorite churches and rewarding them, while penalizing those churches that are in official disfavor.  Yet all of these “compromise” laws would give the government the sole authority to determine who is a “religious employer” and who is not — and impose mandates on the unfavored, with potentials for onerous fines for those who don’t conform.
  • The government has no business investigating religious organizations or the religious beliefs of workers or clients.  In order to enforce these “compromise” laws, the government will have to poke around in the internal operations of churches, asking questions about their “primary purpose”, and even asking about the religious beliefs  of employees or clients.  It’s hard to imagine a more offensive intrusion on religious liberty.
  • The government cannot force people to say and do things that violate their religious and moral beliefs.  One of the “compromise” laws being talked about (Hawaii’s) requires religious employers to provide “written information describing how an enrollee may directly access contraceptive services” — in other words, it requires them to give people a direct referral to the local Planned Parenthood clinic.  Essentially, the government will be forcing words out of our mouths — words we find deeply offensive.
  • We’ve been down this road before.  We know the playbook.   Now that the Administration is facing some political heat, they’ve started talking about “compromise” — without being open to conceding anything real.  Next, we’ll see the release of polls that purport to show that the bishops are “out of touch” with Catholics — as if our constitutional rights are disposable, based on the shifting whims of public opinion.  Dissenting Catholics will be trotted out, to talk about their disagreements with Church teaching.  Then, there will be “gotcha” moments where the advocates will lead the media to agencies that are already complying with similar mandates under protest, and imply that we don’t really mean what we say.  The bishops and their supporters will be labeled “heartless” and “anti-woman”, and will be on the receiving end of protests and heart-rending “human interest” stories.  It will be unpleasant and personal, with sharp elbows thrown in the corners — that’s the way that ideological politics is played by the devotees of the Culture of Death.

    And, they won’t stop with contraceptives and sterilizations.  Forcing insurance plans to cover surgical abortion is clearly next — a bill to that effect is moving forward in Washington State, and one has been introduced in the New York Legislature.  And once they’re finished with gutting our religious liberty, they’ll move on to someone else’s freedoms.

    The best solution to this problem is to eliminate this awful mandate.  There is no compelling need to provide sterilization and hormonal contraceptives, free of charge to users, while all the rest of us — including those of us who consider those services to be dangerous and immoral — pick up the tab in higher insurance premiums.

    There is no compelling reason — outside of anti-life ideology — to throw out the First Amendment, all in the name of a phony “compromise”.

    The Message Could Not Be Clearer

    Friday, January 20th, 2012

    The juxtaposition of events couldn’t have been more stark.  Nor could the message be any clearer — the current Administration has a deep-seated, inveterate hostility to religious freedom.

    The first event happened just last week, in its most important religious liberty decision in decades, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the autonomy of churches to act according to their beliefs, without government intrusion.   The case was Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and I’ve written about it before.  Essentially, the case involved the ability of churches and other religious organizations to choose their own leaders, according to their religious beliefs.

    It’s important to note that, in deciding the case, the Supreme Court specifically rejected the Administration’s argument that churches have no special protection in the choice of their leaders, and should be given no more deference in such decisions than any other association — like a bowling league.  This, despite the fact that the First Amendment grants clear, specific protection to the freedom of religion.

    That was a bold example of the radicalism of this Administration, and their disdain for religious freedom.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court can actually read the Constitution, and understands what it means — and handed down the clearly correct ruling.

    The second event happened today.  The Administration announced that it was going to issue final regulations that would require religious organizations to provide full health insurance coverage for sterilization, abortifacient drugs, and contraceptives.  A very narrow exemption was granted, but it is so tiny in its coverage that few, if any, organizations will qualify.  I’ve written about this regulation before as well.

    Religious organizations of all denominations had denounced this plan, and had called for a broader exemption, in order to respect the conscience rights of those who object to being forced to pay for morally offensive drugs and procedures.  Yet the Administration disdained their request, and made no changes in the proposal.

    Again, you could not ask for a clearer example of the hostility of this Administration towards religious freedom.  The secularist, anti-life ideology of our rulers will not compromise, and will force all others to conform.

    Sometimes, things are seen most clearly from a distance.  Yesterday, Pope Benedict received some of the bishops of the United States at one of their periodic “ad limina” meetings.  In his remarks to the bishops, the Holy Father made some pointed observations about the threats to religious liberty:

    it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

    Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.

    The Holy Father is right.  We as lay Catholics need to take action to defend our freedom, and the freedom of our Church.

    Remember, elections matter.

     

     

    The Strange World of Nancy Pelosi

    Friday, October 14th, 2011

    I have written before of the exasperating public statements of the former Speaker of the House, now House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.  Ms. Pelosi continually touts her status as a “devout Catholic”, yet equally often allows the strangest statements to emit from her mouth.

    Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill called the Protect Life Act.  This bill would amend the health care reform law to ensure that no federal funds are used for elective abortions, that no insurance plan covering elective abortion receives federal funds, and that conscience protection laws are strengthened.  A wide majority of the House supported the bill — the vote was 251-172 — and opinion polls show broad support in the general public for its provisions.

    Enter Ms. Pelosi.  She opined on the floor of the House that “Under this bill… they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health care providers do not have to intervene if this bill is passed.”

    The specific part of the bill that she was apparently referring to would ensure that any health care worker who has religious or moral objections to abortion would not be required to participate.  That is already guaranteed to a certain extent under other provisions of federal and state laws, but it was necessary to extend it to the health care law.

    Of course, there is no evidence whatsoever that any woman has ever died as a result of a conscience objection by a health care worker.  In fact, as far as anyone can tell, the only women who have died in connection with abortion are the millions of unborn ones, the unfortunate mothers who go into unsafe and unsanitary clinics, or those who take dangerous abortion drugs dispensed by the likes of Planned Parenthood.  Does the name Kermit Gosnell ring a bell, Madam Minority Leader?

    But in this area, the mind of Ms. Pelosi is apparently impervious to the truth and to reason, and she occupies a strange world of her own invention.  She demonstrates the wisdom of St. Paul’s observation about those who ignore how God reveals Himself to us in creation: “they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. ” (Rom 1:21)

    This is yet another occasion to recall one of my favorite statements by Cardinal Egan, in response to an earlier set of absurd comments by Ms. Pelosi:

    We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

     

    What He Really Means

    Friday, August 5th, 2011

    In May 2009, the President went to Notre Dame University to receive an honorary degree, and to address the graduating class.  Many of us believed that this was a profoundly scandalous invitation by the administration of the University, which purports to be Catholic.

    In response, we were tutted and shushed by those who, like the gullible priest who heads the University, thought that it would be the beginning of a “dialogue” between the pro-abortion President and the pro-life community, particularly with the Church.

    Indeed, on that day, the President said this:

    When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe—that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground….  Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science but also in clear ethics as well as respect for the quality of life.

    Two years later, we have yet another demonstration of what it means when the President speaks about issues of life and death.  It means this — his words have the exact opposite meaning from what he says, and  you can always expect that he will do everything in his power to advance the Culture of Death.

    Earlier this week, the President’s Secretary of Health and Human Services announced that, pursuant to the health care “reform” law, all health insurance plans in the United States would be required to cover — free of charge to the insured person — all forms of contraceptives, under the rubric of “preventive care”.

    This includes hormonal contraceptives, which corrupt women by treating their healthy fertility as if it were diseased.  It includes “intrauterine devices” which are early mechanisms of abortion.  It includes “ella”, a “morning after pill” that is acknowledged by its own manufacturer to work as an abortion pill.  And it writes into law a powerful anti-life message, which teaches people that a new human life is an enemy to be poisoned at its earliest stages — to be “prevented”, and not welcomed.

    For those individuals who object to this?  Nothing.  No chance of opting out.  No “choice”, to use a favored word of the President’s.

    For those religious institutions that object to this?  Nothing — just an “exemption” that is so transparently phony that it is an insult.

    This has been yet another important lesson.  When the President speaks, it’s important that we translate his words into plain English.  By “common ground”, he means “I will compel you to agree with me or face the consequences”.  By “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion”, he means “ignore their concerns and force them to pay for abortions and abortifacient contraceptives”.  By “draft a sensible conscience clause” he means “enact a fig leaf of a provision that everyone will know to be bogus”.  And by “grounded in clear ethics as well as respect for the quality of life” he means “pushing policies that advance the culture of death and the agenda of those who worship it, regardless of the cost in human lives or souls”.

    And by “dialogue”, he really means “force you to surrender your beliefs and buy into the killing of children and the degradation of women”.

    Answering Planned Parenthood

    Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

    Bills are pending before Congress to cut federal funding through for elective abortions (both through Medicaid and the new health care reform law), and for those organizations that perform abortions. The most prominent organization that will be affected by this effort is the one I like to call the “Temple of Moloch”, for its fanatical devotion to the modern sacrifice of children — Planned Parenthood, which single-handedly aborts over 300,000 children a year.

    Planned Parenthood and their allies, of course, are not taking this lying down, and has enlisted their media friends to shore up public support. Over the weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed piece that summarized the abortion advocates’ talking points — if these bills are passed, the women who now go to Planned Parenthood clinics and receive care like cancer screenings will be left with no health care at all.

    I was contacted by a friend, who was trying to formulate a compelling, practical and loving response to this argument. To me, the answer is two-fold. First, we should trust women to be smart and resourceful enough to make sensible decisions about their health care. Second, we need better public health policies to address the serious health issues facing urban low-income people.

    The Times’ and Planned Parenthood’s argument fundamentally denies the competence of women. It is based on the false assumption that women have no alternatives to Planned Parenthood for their health care. That’s absurd — what, women aren’t smart enough to Google “Gynecologists” or “General Practitioners” in their area? That’s no way to sustain an argument, much less a coherent set of public policies.

    This debate over abortion funding actually gives us an opportunity to talk about a serious public health issue that is of very grave concern to the Church, and that needs a serious public policy response. In many urban areas where Planned Parenthood clinics are located, the reality is that there are not enough health professionals to serve low-income people. The better public policy response to that is not to keep throwing money to organizations that do abortions, hand out contraceptives, and do some other health care services on the side. Instead, we need to take pragmatic steps to address the actual problem of medically under-served populations and areas. Steps like giving doctors incentives to be more accessible to Medicaid patients (e.g., realistic reimbursement rates), or to taking the money saved by these bills and enhance direct public health services (e.g., free cancer screenings), or using it to train professionals like Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners from the community who can give health care at lower cost than doctors. We will also have to change laws so that poor immigrants can qualify for Medicaid and other government health insurance programs. Given the chronic health problems of poor people, these would be much more sensible way to spend public money than to continue to subsidize abortionists.

    Also, we have to help the private sector to respond. Many, many urban hospitals and medical schools are already doing outreach to underserved populations (in both urban and rural areas). There are surely ways to encourage more of that through sensible public programs (e.g., grants and other incentives). For example, some hospitals in New York City have walk-in clinics in convenient locations that are accessible to low-income people, and, because they accept Medicaid, CHIP, etc. they can provide good health care to underserved areas. We need more of these clinics.

    In fact, one way to respond is to imitate Planned Parenthood’s own business model (without the abortions). Surely there are altruistic medical people (and maybe some new religious communities?) who would be willing to start up non-profit organizations to provide good basic health care to poor people in the inner city, perhaps with help from start-up grants from the government, and reasonable reimbursement rates from government health insurance programs.

    The reality is that Planned Parenthood is able to succeed in winning public approval because there really is a dire public health problem in urban areas, and the private sector and the government are not adequately responding right now. It’s great to de-fund abortionists, but we still need to address the underlying problem.

    Catholic social teaching actually has the right answers to the underlying problem — a combination of private and public sector responses, building up community and intermediary organizations, and helping individuals to become part of the solution. And of course, Catholic teaching also has the ultimate answer to the Planned Parenthoods of the world — respect life, don’t destroy it, and work to build a culture of life and civilization of love.

    Election Results

    Sunday, November 7th, 2010

    Gallons of ink, and millions of electrons, have been spilled on the results of last week’s election, and what it means for our nation, our state, the political fortunes of the President and a host of other presidential contenders, our new-fangled voting machines, etc.

    I’m more interested in real results.

    On the national level, the switch of control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans has brought with it a pro-life majority. The narrowing of the Democratic majority in the Senate also increases the chances for some pro-life legislation. These election results present new opportunities for real gains on Culture of Life issues.

    The top priority has to be passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Currently, restrictions on public funding for abortion comes through piecemeal amendments to the budget bills. This means that pro-lifers have to be vigilant about all the various ways that canny legislators and bureaucrats can find to promote abortion. So, the Hyde Amendment restricts funding through the Medicaid program, the Helms Amendment stops funding for oversees abortions, the Smith Amendment prevents federal employee health insurance plans from covering abortion, and the Weldon Amendment provides conscience protection to medical personnel. Each year, these amendments have to be passed against the opposition of pro-abortion members of Congress.

    This bill would take the provisions of these individual amendments, make them permanent law, and apply them across the entire federal budget. This would cure the major flaw in the health care reform law, as well as offer genuine and solid conscience protection for all medical personnel. This is a bill that would easily pass the House, and has a decent chance of passing the Senate — public funding for abortion is deeply unpopular.  It would be very interesting to see what our pro-abortion President would do if this bill appeared on his desk.

    That’s one result of the elections that we’re looking forward to.

    On the state level, the results of the election are not as positive. Our state has elected an ardently pro-abortion Governor and a radically pro-abortion Attorney General. Both men have committed to pressing for the passage of the extremist Reproductive Health Act. The chaos over the results of the elections for the State Senate (the final outcome is still in doubt) leaves Culture of Life supporters with a deep sense of uneasiness that the real result of the state elections could be very, very bad. So, we must remain vigilant in monitoring what goes on in Albany.

    Perhaps the most interesting result of the election is the continuing demonstration of the popularity of the pro-life position. Conventional “wisdom” characterizes a pro-life stand as an electoral loser, and encourages candidates to avoid it. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.   Polls show that 30% of the voters in this election said that abortion “affected” their vote. But it’s the breakdown of that 30% that’s most interesting — 22% voted for pro-life candidates, while only 8% voted for pro-abortion candidates. That’s an advantage of almost three to one in favor of life.

    This reflects an on-going trend that I’ve written about but that continues to elude the mainstream media. Our culture is slowly changing towards greater respect for life, and a greater desire to promote life. The new pro-life majority in Congress is just one reflection of this trend. More will follow.

    That is a very encouraging result of the election.

    New Bill to Stop Federal Funding for Abortion

    Saturday, August 21st, 2010

    In the aftermath of the enactment of the health care reform law, we have been told over and over by the Administration and its allies that the bill will not provide for public funding for abortion, and that the President’s executive order ensures that.

    Nobody who is familiar with the bill actually believes this.  Both pro-lifers and pro-abortion advocates know full well that they law will require federal funds to go to insurance plans that cover abortions, direct funding of abortions though such means as “community health centers”, and through the rulings of courts on the meaning of terms in the law like “family planning” and “preventive care”.  For a detailed explanation, see this fact sheet from the U.S. Bishops’ General Counsel.

    In response to the threats to human life contained in the bill, pro-life members of Congress — led by the stalwart Chris Smith of New Jersey — have introduced legislation that would prevent any federal funding of abortion under the new law, and would also provide adequate conscience protection to those institutions and individuals who do not want to cooperate in abortion.  The bill is called, appropriately, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, and it would prevent any payments for abortion from any federal program.

    Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston/Houston, and Chairman of the Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee, has now written a letter to all members of Congress, calling on them to co-sponsor this bill.  The Cardinal’s letter provides an excellent summary of the bill and the reasons it is necessary, so I reproduce the entire text here.  It’s long, but well worth the read:

    Dear Representative:

    The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 5939) was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) at the end of July, and already has 166 co-sponsors including 20 Democratic members. I am writing to urge you to support and co-sponsor this important legislation if you have not yet done so.
    H.R. 5939 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use taxpayers’ money to support and promote elective abortion. Even public officials who take a “pro-choice” stand on abortion, and courts that have insisted on the validity of a constitutional “right” to abortion, have agreed that the government can validly use its funding power to encourage childbirth over abortion.

    So secure is this agreement, in fact, that some in the past have simply assumed that it is already fully implemented at all levels of the federal government. For example, some wrongly argued during the recent debate on health care reform that there was no need for restrictions on abortion funding in the new health legislation, because this matter had already been settled by the Hyde amendment. However, the Hyde amendment is only a rider to the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bill; and while it has been maintained essentially intact by Congress over the last 35 years, it only governs funds appropriated under that particular act.

    In reality, federal funds are prevented now from funding abortion by riders to various annual appropriations bills as well as by provisions incorporated into specific authorizing legislation for the Department of Defense, Children’s Health Insurance Program, foreign assistance, and so on. On various occasions a gap or loophole has been discovered that does not seem to be addressed by this patchwork of provisions – as when unelected officials in past years were construing the Indian Health Service or the Medicare trust fund to allow funding of elective abortions, and Congress had to act to correct this grave situation. While Congress’s policy has been remarkably consistent for decades, implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal and sometimes sadly inadequate.

    The absence of a government-wide law against federal funding of abortion has led most recently to the passage of major health care reform legislation that contains at least three different policies on federal funding of abortion – none of which is consistent with the Hyde amendment (now Sec. 508 of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill for the current fiscal year) or with similar longstanding provisions that govern all other health programs. For example, one provision of the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act technically complies with the first sentence of Hyde (against direct and traceable funding of abortion procedures themselves), but violates Hyde’s second sentence (against funding health plans that cover abortions) – and then violates the spirit of the entire amendment, by directly forcing conscientiously opposed citizens in many plans to fund other people’s abortions through their health premiums (sec. 1303). Another provision appropriates its own new funds outside the bounds of the Hyde amendment and allows those funds to be used for abortions or not, depending on a decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (sec. 1101). Yet another provision leaves out any reference to Hyde, and allows its new funding for community health centers to be governed by the underlying mandates in the authorizing legislation for these centers – mandates that in other health programs have been interpreted by the federal courts to require federal funding of abortion (Sec. 10503). These disparate policies are not compatible with the Hyde amendment, or even with one another. This is one reason why passage of a bill like H.R. 5939 is overdue.

    The Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support legislation to correct these and other abortion-related problems in health care reform (H.R. 5111/S. 3723). But by implementing the policy of the Hyde amendment throughout the federal government once and for all, H.R. 5939 would prevent such problems and confusions in future legislation as well. Federal health legislation could be debated and supported in terms of its ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates about one lethal procedure that most Americans know is not truly “health care” at all. Annual appropriations bills could be discussed in terms of how their funding priorities best serve the common good, instead of being endangered because ideologues favoring abortion want to use them to reverse or weaken longstanding federal policy on abortion funding.

    H.R. 5939 would also codify the Hyde/Weldon amendment that has been part of the section containing the Hyde amendment in annual Labor/HHS appropriations bills since 2004. Hyde/Weldon has ensured that federal agencies, and state and local governments receiving federal funds, do not discriminate against health care providers because they do not perform or provide abortions. It is long overdue for this policy, as well, to be given a more secure legislative status. No hospital, doctor or nurse should be forced to stop providing much-needed legitimate health care because they cannot in conscience participate in destroying a developing human life.

    In short, I urge you to co-sponsor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and help ensure its enactment.

    Sadly, New York’s Congressional delegation is probably the most anti-life collection in the entire nation (with two exceptions — Rep. Peter King of Long Island and Rep. Christopher Lee of upstate).

    Nevertheless, I would strongly encourage everyone to write to their representatives, and urge them to support the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”.  The easiest way to do this would be to go to the NCHLA website (http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=284) and send an email to your representative.