Action Alert!

Bishops note 'deficiencies,' but CHA still pushes health-care reform

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 09, 2009

On September 30, the Senate finance committee voted down amendments that would have eliminated abortion subsidies from the health-care reform plan. The very next day, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) issued two statements.

"Thank you, Mr. President," was the headline on the statement by Sister Carol Keehan, the CHA president. She said that she was "thrilled" by President Obama's statement that the final bill would not include abortion funding-- so thrilled, it seems, that she didn't pause to check whether the president's promise would be fulfilled. Instead she issued a call for support:

This is a historic opportunity, and we have much to offer that will make reform work well. Now is the moment to intensify our involvement in Washington and each of our communities.

The second statement from the CHA announced approvingly that support for the Obama plan was indeed coming:

Ministry advocates come to Washington to support health reform

Now it's true that the CHA included a cautionary statement, indicating that the group was not endorsing any particular piece of legislation. But the overall thrust of the statements was unmistakable: readers were encouraged to support the White House program.

It's true, too, that these CHA statements were prepared before the finance committee voted, at a time when it was still possible to hope for pro-life amendments to the legislation. But the CHA statements did not stress that such amendments were necessary. If the CHA was serious about fighting for a pro-life approach to the reform package, it would have stressed that its support for the legislation was conditional. Better yet, it might have delayed publication of these statements, so that the content could be tailored to the actual situation on Capitol Hill.

On September 30-- the day before that finance committee vote-- the US Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a message to lawmakers, clearly stating that the bill pending before Congress did not meet President Obama's promise to bar abortion funding. "These deficiencies must be corrected," the USCCB statement declared.

If the CHA had included the same sort of language in their statements, we might take them seriously when they proclaimed their dedication to the pro-life cause. But they didn't, and we don't.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Oct. 12, 2009 11:08 PM ET USA

    Sr Carol Keehan also said in an ETWN interview Obama will provide strong conscience clauses, not ration care, not raise taxes, not cut Medicare, Medicaid or reimbursements to doctors and hospitals. Sadly, I conclude she is either delusional or prevaricating. Catholic hospitals will be closed and sold. Reality: the sad end of two in the Diocese of Brooklyn (St. John, Mary Immac.) is the inevitable destination of all the Catholic hospitals in the United States.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 10, 2009 11:09 AM ET USA

    Why would we think CHA is pro-life? According to the latest Pew Research poll, the number of Catholics who support abortion is down 8%, and is now tied with the number of Catholics who oppose it. Among Catholics 47% oppose making abortion more difficult to obtain, compared to 44% to support restrictions. If any other group's membership was divided 50/50 on something would you be surprised if their public pronouncements were ambiguous at best? Keep praying for life. The battle is not over.