Despite having read hundreds — thousands? — of articles about health-care reform, I still can’t say that I have a real handle on the bill that the House may soon vote on.
I understand pieces of it, but have more questions than answers. I’m sure a lot of folks are in the same boat.
When it comes to the white-hot question of whether the bill will enable the public funding of abortions, it comes down in large part to who you listen to.
Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, writes that the bishops — who strongly support health-care reform in general — cannot support the bill:
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.
Americans United for Life sent out a mass email today asking for donations and warning that:
We’re teetering on the precipice of the greatest tragedy since Roe v. Wade.
In the next few days, under the guise of “health care” reform, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid – with the help of Planned Parenthood – could pass the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade … and your tax dollars could be paying for it.
If they win, 2010 will be remembered as another 1973 – another milestone in their battle to promote abortion on every street corner in America.
But the AP is reporting today that leaders of religious orders who represent 59,000 Catholic nuns have come out in favor of the bill. Their letter includes this:
Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments … in support of pregnant women. This is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.
The AP also reports that Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, a Democrat who opposes abortion and supported tough restrictions in other health-care proposals, said he concluded that the Senate bill would bar federal funding for abortion.
“Voting for this bill in no way diminishes my pro-life voting record or undermines my beliefs,” he said. “I am a staunch pro-life member of Congress, both for the born and the unborn.”
It’s been widely reported that the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, is also in favor of the bill. The group’s president writes:
CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.
There is a requirement that the insurance companies be audited annually to assure that the payment for abortion coverage fully covers the administrative and clinical costs, that the payment is held in a separate account from other premiums, and that there are no federal dollars used.
So there you go.
UPDATE: The Bishops Conference has sent out this statement about supposed support for the bill from a group of nuns (as reported by the AP and repeated by everyone else):
Washington – A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.
Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.
The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice.
There are 793 religious communities in the United States.
The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.