Posts Tagged ‘Health Care Reform’

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 ( and send an email to your representative.

Why We Must Be Vigilant

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

For months during the health care reform debate, the US Bishops, and other pro-life groups, adamantly insisted that the proposed health care reform bills were dangerous because they would use public funds to pay for elective abortions.  The Obama Administration and leaders of Congress consistently responded that their bills would not do any such thing.   In fact, the Administration even accused pro-lifers — including the Catholic bishops — of “bearing false witness” when they claimed that the bill would, in fact, pay for elective abortions with public money.

Catholics, including some religious sisters and the Catholic Health Association bought what the Administration was selling, and argued that the health care bill was actually pro-life.  Pro-life Democrats were induced, at the last minute, to vote for the bill thanks to such promises, and the President even signed an executive order that supposedly guaranteed that no elective abortions would be paid for under the bill.  Pro-lifers objected, but were told, essentially, that we were either lying or that we didn’t understand the bill.

Over the past few days, it has become public knowledge that an obscure provision in the health care reform bill (it involves setting up state-by-state “high risk pools”) is being used to pay for elective abortions in at least two states, and potentially in many more.  These programs were approved by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and at least one of them was already putting out contracts and getting ready to provide services.

Once the publicity started, the Administration began to backtrack, and now promises that they will issue regulations that will ensure that no federal funding will go to elective abortions.

This demonstrates yet again why we must be very, very vigilant when it comes to this Administration’s policies that affect abortion.  It is also clear that legislation must be passed that will forever settle the matter, and ban any federal funding for elective abortions.

Never forget that this Administration, and the people in major policy-making positions, are utterly committed to the legal regime that permits the destruction of innocent human life in the womb for any reason whatsoever.  They will not deviate from their agenda of promoting abortion as a method of “reproductive choice”.   The sad reality is that the Obama Administration, and the President himself, are not moderate on abortion — they are extremist supporters of the “right” to kill unborn children.

Elections have consequences, and so does the passage of well-intentioned but gravely flawed legislation.

The Day After

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Congress has now passed the health reform bill.  In the next few days, the President will sign the Senate bill into law.

So where do we go from here, from a legal perspective?

Once signed, the law will certainly be challenged on constitutional grounds, both by state attorneys general and by private citizens.  The grounds for the challenge will involve an attack on the so-called “individual mandate” — the provision that will require every person to have some kind of health insurance.  This argument could be based on two grounds:  that Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause to regulate economic activity does not authorize it to force people to engage in economic activity (i.e., to buy an insurance contract), and that the mandate violates the Tenth Amendment, which reserve rights to the people or the states unless they are specifically granted to Congress in the Constitution.

It’s doubtful that this litigation will be successful, since no major piece of social legislation has been ruled unconstitutional based on the Commerce Clause since the 1930’s, and the Supreme Court has rarely invalidated statutes based on the Tenth Amendment.

The other major legal question is the significance of the last minute deal for an executive order from the President that claimed to apply the Hyde Amendment (the provision of law that restricts federal funding for abortion) to the health care bill.

Sadly, this executive order is a nullity, and will certainly be set aside by the courts, if the President even bothers to try to implement it.

The separation of powers doctrine, which is at the heart of our Constitution, dictates that Congress makes laws and disburses money, the President enforces these laws, and the courts interpret them.  The courts have consistently ruled that the President cannot unilaterally amend or revoke laws that Congress has enacted, he cannot refuse to spend money that Congress has ordered to be spent, and he cannot interpret statutes in a way that is inconsistent with court rulings.  The President is authorized to enact regulations to implement laws, but only if he is delegated that authority by Congress, and his regulations cannot be inconsistent with the original statute or with court rulings.

The executive order promised by the President purports to apply the Hyde Amendment to the health care bill.  But  the bill does not contain the Hyde Amendment, or any language like the Hyde Amendment.  In fact, the Senate and the House both specifically rejected including such language in the bill.  The President lacks the authority to include the Hyde Amendment on his own initiative — he cannot amend the plain meaning of a statute to make it mean something that Congress did not enact.

In addition, the executive order runs afoul of all the previous court rulings on federal health care statutes (e.g., Medicaid).  In every case decided, the courts have ruled that these health care bills are required to cover and pay for elective abortions, unless Congress specifically forbids such funding.  That is why it is necessary to have the Hyde Amendment added to spending bills every year, and that is why it was needed in this bill.  The President lacks the authority to define a statute in a way that is inconsistent with these court rulings.  Again, he cannot enact the Hyde Amendment on his own.

So, if neither the courts nor the executive order is the answer, where does that leave us, on the day after?

The only way to change the law is to do it through the legislative process.  And that brings us back to elections and culture.  As we saw on Sunday night, that means that we need more authentic pro-life legislators.   And we can’t do that until the conscience of our culture — of individuals, of voters — is awakened to the gross injustice of abortion.  Every time abortion is discussed as a major political or social issue, hearts are changed and people become more pro-life in their sentiments.   Our task is to energize people into a commitment for real social justice that is dedicated to fully protecting the unborn, and to electing representatives who will ensure that our civil laws reflect and embody the fundamental moral law.  Nothing short of that will ever be acceptable.

And so, on the day after, we bind our wounds, recommit ourselves to the crusade, and move on to the next struggle.

The U.S. Bishops Speak Out Again

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Just in case it isn’t sufficiently clear, Cardinal George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a clear and unambiguous statement about where the Catholic Church is on the health care bill — and, therefore, where all Catholics should be.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long and consistently advocated for the reform of the American health care system. Their experience in health care and in Catholic parishes has acquainted them with the anguish of mothers who are unable to afford prenatal care, of families unable to ensure quality care for their children, and of those who cannot obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions.

Throughout the discussion on health care over the last year, the bishops have advocated a bipartisan approach to solving our national health care needs. They have urged that all who are sick, injured or in need receive necessary and appropriate medical assistance, and that no one be deliberately killed through an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion. These are the provisions of the long standing Hyde amendment, passed annually in every federal bill appropriating funds for health care; and surveys show that this legislation reflects the will of the majority of our fellow citizens. The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected.

However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve. Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters, and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures. In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born.

What do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly. The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.

Further, the Senate bill authorizes and appropriates billions of dollars in new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills covered by the Hyde amendment and similar provisions. As the bill is written, the new funds it appropriates over the next five years, for Community Health Centers for example (Sec. 10503), will be available by statute for elective abortions, even though the present regulations do conform to the Hyde amendment. Regulations, however, can be changed at will, unless they are governed by statute.

Additionally, no provision in the Senate bill incorporates the longstanding and widely supported protection for conscience regarding abortion as found in the Hyde/Weldon amendment. Moreover, neither the House nor Senate bill contains meaningful conscience protection outside the abortion context. Any final bill, to be fair to all, must retain the accommodation of the full range of religious and moral objections in the provision of health insurance and services that are contained in current law, for both individuals and institutions.

This analysis of the flaws in the legislation is not completely shared by the leaders of the Catholic Health Association. They believe, moreover, that the defects that they do recognize can be corrected after the passage of the final bill. The bishops, however, judge that the flaws are so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote. Assurances that the moral objections to the legislation can be met only after the bill is passed seem a little like asking us, in Midwestern parlance, to buy a pig in a poke.

What is tragic about this turn of events is that it needn’t have happened. The status quo that has served our national consensus and respected the consciences of all with regard to abortion is the Hyde amendment. The House courageously included an amendment applying the Hyde policy to its Health Care bill passed in November. Its absence in the Senate bill and the resulting impasse are not an accident. Those in the Senate who wanted to purge the Hyde amendment from this national legislation are obstructing the reform of health care.

This is not quibbling over technicalities. The deliberate omission in the Senate Bill of the necessary language that could have taken this moral question off the table and out of play leaves us still looking for a way to meet the President’s and our concern to provide health care for those millions whose primary care physician is now an emergency room doctor. As Pope Benedict told Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel H. Diaz when he presented his credentials as the United States government’s representative to the Holy See, there is “an indissoluble bond between an ethic of life and every other aspect of social ethics.”

Two basic principles, therefore, continue to shape the concerns of the Catholic bishops: health care means taking care of the health needs of all, across the human life span; and the expansion of health care should not involve the expansion of abortion funding and of polices forcing everyone to pay for abortions. Because these principles have not been respected, despite the good that the bill under consideration intends or might achieve, the Catholic bishops regretfully hold that it must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed.

The easiest way to let your Congressional representative know your opinion is to visit the webpage of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment.

Act now.

Stand With Our Bishops on Health Care Reform

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

There is a great deal of misinformation floating around in the past few days, alleging that the U.S. Bishops have somehow decided to sign off on the health care reform bill, or at least to drop their opposition.

Utterly false.  The Bishops are standing firm and insisting that the provisions in the bills that expand federal funding for abortion be stripped, and that adequate conscience protection be ensured.  Here is the text of an action alert that came out yesterday from the Bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat:

Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Reform!
Protect Conscience
Ensure Affordable Health Coverage
Allow Immigrants to Purchase Private Health Insurance

As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country. Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.

  • On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.
  • On December 24, the U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion. And the affordability credits for very low income families purchasing private plans in a Health Insurance Exchange are inadequate and would leave families financially vulnerable.
  • Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.
  • Congressional leaders are now trying to figure out how the rules of the House and Senate could allow the final passage of a modified bill that would satisfy disagreements between House and Senate versions.
  • ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators today by e-mail, phone or FAX.

    To send a pre-written, instant e-mail to Congress go to

    Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.  Contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at &

    “I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. On the other hand, the provisions on abortion funding in the current un-amended Senate health care bill are seriously deficient and unacceptable. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

    “I am deeply disappointed that the current un-amended Senate health care bill fails to maintain the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate protection for conscience. I urge you to support essential provisions against abortion funding, similar to those in the House bill. Include full conscience protection and ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

    WHEN: Votes in the House and Senate are expected at any time.

    Act today! Thank You!

    Here‘s the link to get a copy of the action alert, so it can be inserted in parish bulletins.

    The end game on health care reform is rapidly approaching.  The time to act is now.

    Profiles in Courage Needed in Congress

    Friday, March 5th, 2010

    The health care reform debate is coming down to the wire in Washington.  The news is filled with reports about parliamentary maneuvering, speculation about tactics, opinion polls, and political calculations.

    The Senate has a bill that guarantees public funding for elective abortions.  The President has a framework for a bill that has the same flaw as the Senate bill.  The House has a bill with good pro-life language in it, but the House leadership seems to have given up on it.

    There are so many possibilities and options on the table that you might think that what is needed is a scorecard or a crystal ball.

    Actually, what’s needed more than anything else right now is courage.

    There is a small handful of pro-life Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who are going to be the key players in deciding what (if any) bill is passed by Congress and signed into law.   It’s likely that the vote in the House will be so close that any defection from that pro-life stand may be decisive.  It’s hard to imagine the pressure these Democrats must feel, and how strongly they are being importuned to change their vote.

    And so we need these few pro-life representatives to be courageous, and hold to their principles in defense of life.

    We also need to remember what can happen if a public figure fails to show courage.  In 1970, the New York State Legislature was considering legalizing abortion.  The bill was voted on in the Assembly, and it came to a 74 to 74 vote — a tie, thus killing the bill.  Except that one legislator from an upstate district, who had initially voted “no”, rose to ask permission to change his vote.  It was granted, and with that one switched vote, abortion became legal in New York, and thousands of unborn children lost their lives.

    That’s the cost when public officials lose their nerve.  Perhaps now would be a good time to offer a few prayers to St. Thomas More, the patron saint for profiles in courage among those in public office.

    The Exasperating Speaker

    Sunday, February 28th, 2010

    The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is an exasperating person.  Her public statements on abortion show an appalling lack of familiarity with the truth.   And, although she has been consistently corrected by more knowledgeable people, she continues to spread misinformation about abortion in the health care reform plans.

    The most recent examples of this came in connection with the President’s vaunted health care summit.  Speaking about the Senate health care bill and the President’s proposal, she said:

    … the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills.

    Then, in a follow-up interview, she again said:

    I talked to the Catholic Bishops about this and people on all sides of the choice issue. Law prevents federal funding; federal law prevents federal funding of abortion. There is no federal funding of abortion in this bill.

    All of this is utterly and completely false.  And it is hard to believe that anyone of any degree of intelligence could fail to see it as such.

    I’ve blogged before on the Senate bill and the President’s plan (if you’re interested, check here), and the U.S. Bishops have an abundance of information on their website.  To put it in a nutshell, both proposals would:

  • provide direct federal funding of abortion through Community Health Centers (i.e., Planned Parenthood clinics);
  • give taxpayer-funded subsidies for private plans that cover abortion (including plans administered by the federal government),
  • require every American to make a direct payment to their insurance carrier that would pay for elective abortions; and
  • leave the door open for federal bureaucrats to mandate direct payments for elective abortions.
  • Richard Doerflinger, who works tirelessly on pro-life issues for the U.S. Bishops, said in response to the Speaker:

    We do not know how anyone who has spoken to the bishops could conclude that the Senate health care bill does not fund abortions.  As the bishops have said in their letters to Congress, abortion problems in the Senate bill are so serious that, despite our strong support for expanding access to health care, we will have to oppose the bill unless they are resolved.

    Which brings us back to the exasperating Speaker.  What can be said about a person who says things that are patently untrue, is publicly corrected, yet continues to say the same things?

    I think the best comment was made by Cardinal Egan, in response to an earlier absurd statement on abortion by the Speaker:

    Anyone who dares to defend that [unborn children] 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.