Bishops Urge Obama to Keep Promises on Health Care

Reiterate Flaws With Abortion, Conscience, Immigrants

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 23, 2010 ( Barack Obama’s last-minute executive order to keep tax dollars from funding abortion confirmed what the U.S. bishops said all along about the health care reform bill: It allots federal funds for the taking of life.

Unfortunately, an executive order cannot substitute for statutory provisions, the prelates are recalling. They continue to affirm that the new law is «profoundly flawed.»
These were observations made in a statement signed by Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. episcopal conference. His statement was released today, immediately following Obama’s signing the reform package into law.

Cardinal George firstly reiterated that access to health care recognizes and affirms human dignity. He said that Christian discipleship calls for working to ensure that all people have necessary and appropriate health care.

The bishops «have spoken for the poorest and most defenseless among us,» the 73-year-old prelate noted.

And he recognized that «many elements of the health care reform measure signed into law by the president address these concerns and so help to fulfill the duty that we have to each other for the common good.»

Overshadowing the good

Cardinal George then went on to explain that the bishops have opposed the measure despite «whatever good this law achieves or intends» because «there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion.»

He noted: «The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions. Its failure to preserve the legal status quo that has regulated the government’s relation to abortion […] could undermine what has been the law of our land for decades and threatens the consensus of the majority of Americans: that federal funds not be used for abortions or plans that cover abortions.

«Stranger still, the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other peoples’ abortions with their own funds. If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.»

The health care bill seemed unlikely to have the necessary number of votes until Obama won over a group of pro-life Democrats by promising an executive order to establish an «adequate enforcement mechanism» to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion.

Regarding this measure, Cardinal George observed: «The fact that an executive order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. We do not understand how an executive order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.»

Pro-life groups have already pointed to legal precedents showing how the order will likely be undermined.

More problems

Cardinal George went on to note that the health care reform package is «profoundly flawed» in other regards as well.

He noted that «it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections — both within and beyond the abortion context. As well, many immigrant workers and their families could be left worse off since they will not be allowed to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges to be created, even if they use their own money.»

The cardinal acknowledged that many claim there is not federal funding for abortion in the measure and that conscience protection has been assured.

But, he said, «analyses that are being published separately show this not to be the case, which is why we oppose it in its current form.»

«We and many others will follow the government’s implementation of health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage,» the cardinal confirmed. «We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required.»

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