Bishops Repeat Demand for Abortion Funding Ban

Monday, 05 Oct 2009 07:15 PM

By John Rossomando

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Catholic bishops, repeatedly frustrated that Democratic-sponsored healthcare reform proposals would allow abortion funding, are insisting anew that the final bill must live up to President Barack Obama’s pledge against such funding.

The president told a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9 that "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

As the bills have continued to allow funding, U.S. bishops wrote their fourth letter since July 17 insisting that such funds be banned.

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“So far, the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws,” says the bishops' most recent letter to the Senate, on Sept. 30. “These deficiencies must be corrected.”

Signing the letter were Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, who heads the United States Catholic Conference’s Pro-Life Activities Committee; Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.; and John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Each of the four letters to Congress has stated that the Catholic Church's support for healthcare reform pivots on an explicit ban on abortion funding.

The House and the Senate have defeated amendments that would have established clear prohibitions.

In late July, the House defeated an amendment co-sponsored by Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that would have blocked federal money from health plans that pay for abortions.

Two amendments of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to do the same faced similar fates: one in the Finance Committee last month and another in the Health Education Labor and Pensions committee in July.

According to The New York Times, the legislation as proposed now would allow federal funds to pay for healthcare plans that provide abortions.

Richard Doerflinger, associate pro-life activities director for the bishops conference, told CNSNews.com that the Catholic Church cannot support such a healthcare bill because it would violate the church’s canon law and moral teachings.

“The bishops are basically together on this,” Doerflinger said. “We are concerned about covering people who can’t afford health insurance now, but we also are insisting that it must be healthcare reform that protects life at every stage, and we don’t have that.”

Other bishops have issued similar statement in their dioceses.

Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, told members of his diocese that the House bill (HR 3200) runs contrary to the church’s stance against “any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or stem-cell research.”

Nickless, previous letters from Rigali, warned that the House bill would circumvent the Hyde Amendment, a federal law that prohibits federal funding of abortions through Medicare, and allow the creative manipulation of funds to cover abortions.

On Sept. 1, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., issued a joint statement declaring that healthcare reform must “keep intact our current public policies protecting taxpayers from being coerced to fund abortions. . . it is inadequate to propose legislation that is silent on this morally crucial matter.

“Given the penchant of our courts over the past 35 years to claim unarticulated rights in our Constitution, the explicit inclusion of so-called ‘abortion services’ from coverage is essential,” Naumann and Finn wrote.

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