Abortion and Health Care

November 16th, 2009

By Tom Carter

abortion1Senate Democrats will presumably get their act together and bring a health care bill to a vote someday.  Whether the Senate bill includes some form of a public option is not the only issue that may cause the bill to fail.  The question of whether it will include a prohibition against spending federal funds on abortion, as the House bill does, may turn out to be the critical issue.

The principal voice on abortion being heard in Congress these days is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Certainly they aren’t the only abortion opponents, religious and otherwise, who are concerned that any health care reform bill include a ban on abortion funding.  And they aren’t the only Catholic voice.  Individual priests and bishops are also speaking out, encouraging Catholics to communicate their views on abortion to members of Congress.

Here’s the position of the USCCB:

On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortion coverage.

It is critical that the Senate adopt the House-approved Stupak Amendment language on this issue. This Amendment ensures that Americans are not forced to pay for the destruction of unborn children as part of needed health care reform.

The Senate must address other essential moral priorities: protecting conscience rights; making health coverage more affordable and accessible for those in need; and ensuring that immigrants do not lose or will not be denied health care coverage needed for the good of their families and the health of society.

The politicians are listening, to the point that the Democratic leadership in the House permitted an amendment to prohibit spending on abortion to be included in their bill.  If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have passed it because of the opposition of Republicans and moderate Democrats.  The Senate faces the same problem.  

However, if the final bill produced from an eventual House-Senate conference includes the ban, strong abortion rights supporters may vote it down in one or both houses.  If it doesn’t include the ban, member who oppose abortion may vote it down.  Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

This is a serious problem for Democrats, partly because of the personal beliefs of some and partly because a significant loss of support among Catholics could spell disaster in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

I can’t help but be a bit amused by the whole thing.  Democrats have long gotten away with being “cafeteria Catholics,” picking and choosing among the Church’s basic beliefs, often for purely political reasons. 

On the abortion issue in particular, despite grumblings from the Church, Democrats have adopted absurdly contradictory stances.  The best example might be John Kerry, a hypocrite in many ways, who said when running for president that he believes life begins at conception and that he is pro-choice.  That means that he (and others like him) support murder — there’s no way out of it.

Finally, the Catholic Church is calling them to account.  It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

For additional information:  Dems may lose Catholics over abortion, Politico

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4 Responses to “Abortion and Health Care”

  1. Lisa |

    I know very well some “cafeteria Catholics” who voted for Barack Obama in the election knowing full well his position on abortion. I do not know that this bill will change anything for them. The Catholic Bishops see the Institution of the Catholic Church crumbling especially with the issue of abortion and they will take this issue and run with it. There are however many other devout Catholics, Evangelical Christians and others who will not stand for the bill whether it is for religious reasons or fiscal reasons.

  2. Tom |

    Lisa, I think you’re right that the Church may have finally reached the point where they have to take a firm stand on the abortion issue, and this bill gives them the opportunity, whether they want it or not. It’s got to be tough on both pro-life and pro-choice Democrats. Depending on how the bill eventually comes out of conference, assuming it gets past the Senate, one of the two groups is going to be under tremendous pressure.

    The energy bill will still be a big issue next year, and I suspect the health care bill won’t be on the President’s desk before the end of this year. The Democrats may be headed for a train wreck in the 2010 election.

  3. Rob |

    John Kerry, whom you rightly describe as “a hypocrite” who said that he believes life begins at conception and that he is pro-choice, is unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg. By the way, some days ago I happened to read a letter by Catholic bishop Thomas J. Tobin to Representative Patrik J. Kennedy, who had claimed that “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” It’s an interesting reading and an excellent explanation of what constitutes a Catholic, or better still of what is the difference between a loyal man and a hypocrite:

  4. Tom |

    Thanks for the link to the bishop’s letter, Rob. I’d encourage anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to pick and choose among fundamental points of Catholic belief to read it. Here’s another quote from the letter:

    “…when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church….”

    It’s one thing to disagree with the Church on issues like abortion, as I do. It’s another thing to claim to be a Catholic yet refuse to accept Church doctrine. That’s hypocritical.

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