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With pro-life amendment's defeat, US bishops urgently call for changes in Senate health bill

December 09, 2009

By a 54-45 vote, the United States Senate has rejected the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment to health care legislation. The amendment would have kept in place “the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions,” as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops stated before the vote.

With the failure of the amendment, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who chairs the US bishops' pro-life committee, said: "The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form." However leaders of the US bishops' conference held out some hope that the bill might still be amended to satisfy pro-life demands. Cardinal Francis George, the president of the episcopal conference, said "we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation." The cardinal added: "Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent."

Earlier Cardinal DiNardo-- along Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City-- who respectively chair the bishops’ committees on domestic justice, pro-life activities, and migration-- noted:

The bill currently before the Senate allows the HHS Secretary to mandate abortion coverage throughout the government-run “community health insurance option.” It also provides funding for other plans that cover unlimited abortions, and creates an unprecedented mandatory “abortion surcharge” in such plans that will require pro-life purchasers to pay directly and explicitly for other people’s abortions. The bill does not maintain essential nondiscrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion.

The pro-life amendment fell on a 54-45 vote. All but two Republican senators voted in favor of the amendment; the exceptions were Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine. All but 7 Democrats voted against the amendment; the exceptions were Senators Nelson of Nebraska, Casey of Pennsylvania, Bayh of Indiana, Conrad and Dorgan of North Dakota, Kaufman of Delaware, and Pryor of Arkansas.

A bare Senate majority of 51 votes is required for passage of the health-care reform bill. (Actually 50 votes would suffice, because Vice President Biden would case a tie-breaking vote in favor.) So the 54 votes against the pro-life language suggested that sponsors might have enough support to ensure ultimate passage of the legislation. However, several Democratic senators have indicated that they may not support the bill in a final vote, for a variety of reasons. Also, 60 votes are necessary to close debate on the proposal, and the 54-vote margin leaves Democratic leaders well short of that goal.


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Dec. 09, 2009 6:31 PM ET USA

    I think the real disappointment for the USCCB is the fact that there is no strong "public option" in this healthcare bill. It's a boon for the health insurance companies according to liberal radio and MSNBC talk show host, Ed Schultz. His heart is broken too. Obama and the Dems haven't gone liberal enough for him.

  • Posted by: Hal - Dec. 09, 2009 3:32 PM ET USA

    I kinda' sorta' have to agree with Teachable. The guys at the USC CB did a "nudge nudge wink wink act with ABM for most of the election. They sowed the wind; let them reap the whirlwind. He was clearly the most hostile candidate to life issues we have seen in years and has always been. But, some of the Bishops would sell their souls for the liberal agenda. Guess they have to be congratulated for succeeding.

  • Posted by: William F. Folger - Dec. 09, 2009 2:09 PM ET USA

    What USCCB did & failed to do in 2008 resulted in a “yes we can perfect storm”,favoring the Left in both Houses & the most pro-abortion president, ever. It makes correction by mid-term election unlikely to be strong enough to undo 2009 damage via Nov. 2010. Yesterday’s Dem-compromises could make the bill attractive enough to garner the “critical 60” – nigh impossible to reverse next November. If USCCB does not NOW work HARD & UNAMBIGUOUSLY against the new bill, they must accept the blame. PRAY

  • Posted by: unum - Dec. 09, 2009 12:29 PM ET USA

    The Democrats are showing us just what each of them stand for. May god have mercy on their souls, and may we do whatever is necessary to defeat these evildoers when they run for reelection. The time for inaction is past.

  • Posted by: visions - Dec. 09, 2009 7:29 AM ET USA

    An urgent novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe is in order. Jesus I Trust in You