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All a matter of perspective

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 17, 2009

 Father Michael Place-- once an adviser to the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, later the head of the Catholic Health Association-- explains his support for health-care reform in an article for America magazine. There are hurdles, he concedes, on the route to reform. For instance:

There is a second reason for deep concern: Will the issue of abortion block reform?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that statement. Father Place goes on to explain that abortion coverage should not be included in any reform legislation. He's on the right side of the question. 

Still his perspective is interesting. To him, the abortion issue is a problem because might derail hopes for proper reform. To me-- and to many others in the pro-life movement-- the health-care issue is a problem because it might provide the opportunity for legal approval of subsidized abortion on demand.

This difference in perspectives, I think, is at the heart of the recent debate among Catholics over questions such as whether or not Catholic Charities should support health-care reform legislation. Some Catholics-- let's put the folks from Catholic Charities in this category-- have been working hard to enact health-care reform. Now the time is ripe, there's plenty of momentum behind the effort, and they're frustrated to see that the abortion issue is jeopardizing all the progress. That's understandable.

This doesn't mean that these people favor abortion coverage. They don't. They want a reform proposal that doesn't include such unacceptable practices. They would be delighted if the abortion issue could be removed from the debate. But it can't.

Meanwhile the pro-life movement, which has been fighting for 35+ years to stop acceptance of abortion, sees the entire health-care debate through the prism of abortion politics. To them-- I should say to us-- the question of abortion coverage is not incidental, not an add-on that could be removed without jeopardizing the legislation. It is the issue: the central struggle. We're not trying to finesse the issue, not hoping that it will go away, not  looking for a compromise. This is a political battle that we must win. 

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