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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
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Cardinal blasts health reform legislation; Democrat foresees ‘massive public subsidies’ for abortion

August 03, 2009

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, blasted provisions of healthcare reform legislation passed on July 31 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In a July 29 letter, Cardinal Rigali warned:

1. The legislation delegates to the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to make abortion a basic or essential benefit in all health plans, or in the “public plan” created by the legislation. This would be a radical change: Federal law has long excluded most abortions from federal employees’ health benefits plans and places no requirement on private plans, most of which also decline to cover elective abortions.

2. Because some federal funds are authorized and appropriated by this legislation without passing through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, they are not covered by the Hyde amendment and other provisions that have prevented direct federal funding of abortion for over three decades. The legislation needs its own provision against abortion funding to ensure consistency with the policy in all other federal health programs.

3. Provisions such as those requiring timely access to all benefits covered by qualified health plans could be used by courts to override and invalidate state laws regulating abortion, such as laws to ensure women’s safety and informed consent and to promote parental involvement when minors consider abortion. These laws are modest, widely supported, and constitutionally sound, but they could fall before a new federal mandate to maximize “access” to abortion. It should be made clear in the legislation that such laws will not be preempted.

4. Several federal laws have long protected the conscience rights of health care providers. These laws prevent governmental bodies from discriminating against individual and institutional health care providers that decline involvement in abortion, and respect the moral and religious convictions of health professionals on abortion and other procedures in programs funded under the Public Health Service Act and other federal laws (see www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/crmay08.pdf). President Obama recently stated that he accepts these current laws and will do nothing to weaken them. Congress should make the same pledge, by ensuring that this legislation will maintain protection for conscience rights.

Cardinal Rigali urged committee members to address these aspects by backing pro-life amendments sponsored by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA). These amendments failed in close votes on July 30 and July 31, with Rep. Stupak warning that “we’ll be looking at massive public subsidies for abortion.”

 


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