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Column: Catholics urged to contact ‘swing votes’ on health care

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

I was deeply troubled to learn that Sister Carol Keehan, the chief executive for the Catholic Health Association, has urged members of the House of Representatives to vote for the Senate Health Care Reform Bill. This action by the Catholic Health Association could not come at a more critical time.

As I write this article, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promising
a vote soon on health care reform, even while members of the House leadership admit they do not yet have enough votes for passage. One of the most critical groups standing in the way of passage by the House is pro-life Democrats.

The Catholic Health Association’s position, in effect, provides cover for any member of the House who chooses to buckle under the pressure of the president and the Democratic leadership to accept government funding of abortion. They can now defend themselves by pointing out that Catholic health care leaders recommended they vote for the bill.

The Catholic Health Association’s leadership took this action knowing that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to urge members of the House of Representatives to vote against the Senate bill, unless a way is found to amend the bill to prohibit federal funding of abortion and provide conscience protection for health care professionals as well as health care institutions. The National Right to Life Committee, as well as every other creditable pro-life organization, recognizes that the Senate bill allows for unprecedented government funding for abortion.

Sister Keehan claims: “On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement. On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ from Right to Life.”

I find this statement by Sister Keehan either incredibly naïve or disingenuous. Either the bill permits previously prohibited government funding of abortion or not. This is not a technicality.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its analysis of the Senate bill, identifies these specific problems with it: 1) The bill appropriates $7 billion for services at community health centers that can be used directly for elective abortions; 2) The bill uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions. By subsidizing plans that cover abortions, the federal government will expand abortion coverage and make abortions more accessible; 3) The bill uses the power of the federal government to force Americans to pay for other people’s abortions, even if they are morally opposed to abortion.

If the Senate had wanted to prohibit federal funding for abortion, all they had to do was accept the language that had been adopted by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority. The Senate rejected this language.

Congressman Stupak, who authored the House language, has invited President Obama and/or the Democratic leadership to use the Hyde Amendment language or similar language in several other already-enacted bills that clearly prohibit federal funding of abortion. To date, they have refused to accept language that has been used for decades to prevent federal funding of abortion. The president and the Democratic leadership reject this tried-and-true language protecting taxpayers from having to fund abortion, all the while claiming that they do not want to change current policy. If this is really the case, why not use the language that has proven effective?

Of course, abortion is not the only problem with the Senate bill. For instance, the bill fails to provide adequate conscience protection for health care professionals as well as institutions. One would think that the Catholic Health Association would be extremely concerned about conscience protection. However, if the Catholic Health Association is willing to compromise on government funding for abortion, then who needs conscience protection?

I do not doubt the laudable intentions of Sister Keehan and the Catholic Health Association. No doubt they want to find a way to extend health care coverage to those who are not being served or not being served well by the current system. Providers of health care see gut-wrenching examples of those that the current health care system is failing. However, it is not permissible to try to improve the quality of life for some by cooperating in the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family.

To believe that President Obama and/or the Senate and House leadership will correct these abortion issues at a later date is foolish. They are the ones responsible for making members of Congress accept government funding of abortion as an integral part of so-called health care reform. President Obama has gone back on many of his campaign promises, but has been scrupulously faithful in his promises to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry to advance their agenda.

I urge you to contact your representative to urge him/her to vote against the Senate bill, unless someone finds a miraculous way to fix all of its problems. Moreover, although there are none in Kansas or Missouri, I encourage you to contact the members of Congress who have been identified as the critical swing votes on health care reform. These House members hold the fate of the entire nation in their hands. They need to hear from Americans throughout the country.

Finally, I encourage you to contact Sister Keehan and the Catholic Health Association expressing to them your disappointment in their willingness to accept government-funded abortion as part of health care reform.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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