US Bishops: Ills of Health Bill Outweigh Benefits

Express Disappointment Over Legislators’ Push for Abortion

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 16, 2010 ( Faced to an upcoming vote on health care reform, the U.S. bishops are protesting that the current bill contains too many objectionable items.

The prelates are «disappointed and puzzled» by recent advances in the process, said Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in a statement released Monday.

He said that the conference is disappointed «to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve.»

The House is expected to vote on this bill before the end of the month. President Barack Obama is currently lobbying lawmakers in order to rally support around the bill.

«Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters,» the cardinal explained, «and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment» in order to «expand 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,» he said.

Minority rules

The prelate pointed out that these steps were taken by lawmakers despite the fact that «the provisions of the long standing Hyde amendment, passed annually in every federal bill appropriating funds for health care» reflects «the will of the majority of our fellow citizens.»

As well, he added, it goes against the fact that «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.»

Cardinal George summarized several points that the bishops find «deeply disturbing about the Senate bill.»

«In the Senate bill,» he said, «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,» the prelate explained.

«Further,» he stated, «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,» which will ultimately be available «for elective abortions.»

«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,» the cardinal pointed out.

He asserted that «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.»

Fundamentally flawed

The conference president stated that the bishops «judge that the flaws are so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote.»

The archbishop of Chicago added, «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,» he continued. «The status quo that has served our national consensus and respected the consciences of all with regard to abortion is the Hyde amendment.»

Cardinal George observed: «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.»

«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,» he said.

The cardinal underlined two principles that underlie the concerns of the U.S. 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.»

He concluded, «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.»

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