Bishops Restate Vow vs. Obamacare's Abortion

Friday, 09 Oct 2009 06:26 PM

By John Rossomando

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The nation’s Catholic bishops have drawn a line in the sand over the Democrats’ refusal to include strong language excluding abortion from coverage under healthcare reform.

The three key bishops heading up the church’s healthcare reform lobbying efforts ? Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia; Walter Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah ? told Congress in a letter Thursday that the church has no choice but to oppose the healthcare reform legislation as it stands.

Spurring their renewed opposition were committee defeats of several amendments that would have prevented abortion from being.

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On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the letter said, "we are writing to express our disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform that we have conveyed previously to Congress. In fact, the Senate Finance Committee rejected a conscience rights amendment accepted earlier by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill,” said the letter, the bishops' sixth missive addressing healthcare reform since July.

The bishops, however, also reiterated their commitment to working with Congress and the administration to produce healthcare reform legislation that “clearly protects life, dignity and health of all.”

If the final legislation fails to include strong language protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers and preventing abortion coverage, the bishops pledged they “will have to oppose the healthcare bill vigorously.”

The Obama administration, however, claims the bishops are mistaken in their opposition, claiming the 1977 Hyde amendment would keep federal funding from going to pay for abortions.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told CNSNews.com during Wednesday’s press briefing that the Hyde Amendment "precludes the use of federal funds for abortion that isn’t going to be changed in these healthcare bills.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Democrats should take the bishops’ letter seriously. The letter stands as proof that the bills making their way through Congress do not protect the lives of the unborn, Boehner said.

“It provides further confirmation that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi need to scrap the current bills and start over, this time working with Republicans to write a responsible bipartisan bill that will truly help our healthcare system,” CNSNews.com reported Boehner as having said.

And the National Right to Life Committee roundly criticized the White House response.

“Gibbs’ statement is one more proof, it any more were needed, that the White House is actively engaged in a political smuggling operation ? an attempt to achieve funding of elective abortion by the federal government, cloaked in smokescreens of contrived language and outright deception,” Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director, told CNSNews.com.

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