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Cardinal George emphasizes: Health reform legislation ‘must be opposed’ in current form

March 16, 2010

Reacting to the Catholic Health Association’s endorsement of Senate health reform legislation, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reiterated in a March 15 statement that the US bishops oppose the legislation under consideration because of its provision for abortion funding and its lack of provision for conscience protection. “The flaws are so fundamental,” he said, “that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote.”

“Throughout the discussion on health care over the last year, the bishops have advocated a bipartisan approach to solving our national health care needs,” Cardinal George said. “They have urged that all who are sick, injured or in need receive necessary and appropriate medical assistance, and that no one be deliberately killed through an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion. These are the provisions of the long standing Hyde amendment, passed annually in every federal bill appropriating funds for health care.”

“However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve,” he continued. “Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters, and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures. In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born.”

He added:

What do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly. The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.

Further, the Senate bill authorizes and appropriates billions of dollars in new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills covered by the Hyde amendment and similar provisions. As the bill is written, the new funds it appropriates over the next five years, for Community Health Centers for example (Sec. 10503), will be available by statute for elective abortions, even though the present regulations do conform to the Hyde amendment. Regulations, however, can be changed at will, unless they are governed by statute.

Additionally, no provision in the Senate bill incorporates the longstanding and widely supported protection for conscience regarding abortion as found in the Hyde/Weldon amendment. Moreover, neither the House nor Senate bill contains meaningful conscience protection outside the abortion context. Any final bill, to be fair to all, must retain the accommodation of the full range of religious and moral objections in the provision of health insurance and services that are contained in current law, for both individuals and institutions.

This analysis of the flaws in the legislation is not completely shared by the leaders of the Catholic Health Association. They believe, moreover, that the defects that they do recognize can be corrected after the passage of the final bill. The bishops, however, judge that the flaws are so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote. Assurances that the moral objections to the legislation can be met only after the bill is passed seem a little like asking us, in Midwestern parlance, to buy a pig in a poke.


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: John J Plick - Mar. 16, 2010 9:19 PM ET USA

    The whole "spirit" of the bill was wrong from the start...., much like "liberation theology..." Changing the "abortion language" won't fix it.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Mar. 16, 2010 8:26 PM ET USA

    First, we must pray diligently for the defeat of this monstrosity. The whole point of the bill is to pay for abortion and other anti-life measures desired by the left. Why doesn't the CHA understand that? Or perhaps, God forbid, they do.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2010 7:33 PM ET USA

    Dear Cardinal George, Your words are welcome. Did you forget to mention that even with the Hyde Amendment provisions, the proposed legislation would still be the greatest afront ever in U.S. law to the principal of subsidiarity? Somewhere along the line I think I heard that the Catholic Faith does not support massive central government socialism. The bill grants outrageous central government invasion into the lives of the citizenry.