The National Catholic Review

In his Web-only article for America, "Cul-de-Sac Catholicism," Nicholas P. Cafardi asked why the U.S. bishops conference fought health care reform to the end, even when the president signed an executive order pledging that the new bill would not utlitize public funds to pay for abortions. Now, three representatives of the conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, William Murphy and John Wester, have issued a reply, explaining in detail the reasons for the bishops' conference opposition to the law's final language:  

Our goal with regard to the protection of life in health care reform was to maintain the status quo regarding abortion funding, i.e., to apply the Hyde amendment to federal funds flowing into the reformed health care system just as it is now applied to current health care programs where federal funds are involved...

1. The Hyde language has two essential elements: no direct federal funding of elective abortion and no federal funding of plans which include elective abortion. The funding of the Community Health Centers in the new legislation violates the first provision of Hyde and the mixture of federal subsidies with private funds in the exchanges violates the second. We understand that the Community Health Centers, which currently receive federal funds, do not perform abortions. In some cities and neighborhoods they are the first defense against disease for vulnerable individuals and families including immigrants. The reason they don’t currently fund abortions is that their federal funds are provided by the Health and Human Services Appropriations bills, and therefore are subject to the Hyde amendment ban on federal funds in these bills being used for elective abortion. Unfortunately, in the new legislation new funds for these centers will not flow through the HHS Appropriations but are appropriated through the new legislation itself which does not have the Hyde language. While the President’s Executive Order states that abortions will not be performed, the reality is that those funds must be available for abortion because federal appellate court rulings over 30 years will require them to be used for this purpose. The law that controls Community Health Centers, Sec. 330 of the Public Health Service Act, compels the centers to provide “family planning” and “gynecology” services as “required primary health services”--and now the courts can be expected to interpret these categories as they did in Medicaid before the Hyde amendment was passed. An executive order cannot contradict a statutory mandate interpreted by the courts.

Read "Reexamining the Health Debate."

Tim Reidy




Anonymous | 4/29/2010 - 8:13pm
What Michael Liddy fails to mention is that the Stupak and Waxman's congressional colloquy hard wired any future court look at the health reform legislation by forcing the court to pay attention to the congressional intent in passing this bill and the EO. The USCCB also fails to take this fact into account also  in their flawed analysis of what may or may not happen in the future. That's what makes their positions partisan for all to see. The bishop of Providence is still kicking the dead horse by taking out his hospital from the catholic Hospital association.[even that it's so broke it gets a pass on dues] Now thats' called Chutzpah in NYC.    
Anonymous | 4/29/2010 - 8:03pm
So you want to me believe that by increasing the number of union members in charter/voucher schools, that the very people who stand opposed to every single meaningful reform in public schools will suddenly give way & see the light?
what planet precisely do you inhabit Mr. Bindner?
Michael Liddy | 4/29/2010 - 5:59pm
It is simple. There's a reason to get things in writing in life - otherwise you have little or no control over what comes next. The Democrats were against allowing HYDE to be written into the bill. And an executive order doesn't have the effect or permanency of a statute. All it means is that the abortion provisions are temporarily resting on a slippery slope - eventually we are going to slide down that slope. I've watched politics all of my life and I learned a very long time ago not to get caught up in the arguments of the momemt - rather, I keep my eye on the many amendment bills from passionate legislators that follow a new law and the court's interpretation of the law. Because HYDE was not directly written into the statute, it will be much easier to crack away at the limited abortion provisions and that is exactly what will happen.
James Lindsay | 4/29/2010 - 12:51pm
Notre Dame and the USCCB have nothing to do with the DC Voucher bill. The Archdiocese does and they are acting appropriately. Anyone can get a charter - including Notre Dame, if they wish to open a Charter School in DC. The USCCB will defer to the local ordinary in this matter - who has the issue handled (probably much to the chagrin of GOP ideologues who would like him to take a stand). While he did say something about keeping the law, he has also effectively taken steps along a more productive path.

On the larger issue, I think Charters are much more productive than vouchers - especially if the Charter school leads to more parental involvement in school governance, stronger Principals (which is key to a good school).

It used to be that anti-Catholic bigotry prevented funding our schools. While this is still found in pockets, the main opponents now seem to be the Teachers Unions. I see a grand compromise here. If we allow more unionization of Catholic Schools who get vouchers or charters, I bet that unions will drop their objection to Catholic schools getting them.
Anonymous | 4/28/2010 - 5:04pm
Well I'm glad you think the point is moot; Notre Dame, the USCCB & some poor black children might beg to differ with your considered position, Mr. Bindner.
But then again only Republicans are unfeeling.
James Lindsay | 4/28/2010 - 4:58pm
Mr. Stehn, the GOP could have made themselves relevant at any moment by saying that they would be willing to vote for the final bill in exchange for a compromise here or there. They made themselves irrelevant by making killing the bill an electoral issue. The way, the Stupak vote in the Senate shows why FOCA could never pass - as there were more than 40 votes for Stupak - the GOP was joined by 6 Democrats and one GOP Senator (Snowe) voted against. In other words, the pro-choice coalition in the Senate is less than 60, so FOCA could never be brought to the floor. If it became obvious that community health centers were performing abortions, at least 5 Democrat votes would have shifted sides to stop it - and could be counted on to stop it in the future. The Community Health Issue is a cannard - like FOCA.
James Lindsay | 4/28/2010 - 4:51pm
DC's cancellation of the voucher program is largely irrelevant because the Catholic Schools most effected have become Charter Schools (which is what I suggested that they do back when I was in the Mayor's office). In other words, the question is moot.
Anonymous | 4/28/2010 - 4:47pm
Its very curious to me when I see (primarily white) liberals getting their feathers in a huff when the bishops' conference opposes a liberal item, but they bat a blind eye to the naked partisanship engaged in by black Protestant churches who actually invite in (only DemocratIC) politicians to "preach" on Sundays.
I don't fully agree with the conference's reading of the bill, but I am happy that the conference plays this role.  Agree with them or not, I think they represent the Church in a fairly good light on most issues, and do so in a primarily non-partisan manner.  Liberals seem to forget that they were on the opposite side of the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, Social Security privatization, and a number of other issues.
If some of you liberal Catholics really wanted to move the bishops' conference, why don't you join them in objecting to pres. Obama's cancellation of the DC Voucher program which provided real educational opportunities to poor inner city black kids.  Where's the liberal outrage on that?
John Stehn | 4/28/2010 - 4:33pm
Michael Binder:  “there will be legislation prohibiting [abortion w/taxpayer funds] that will be quickly passed”.  Passed by who?  The Democratically controlled Congress?  Really?  Maybe in 1950!  Rest assured the back door will be opened for my tax dollars to pay for infanticide, thanks to so-called “Catholic” Democrats who sell out their Faith for votes and power.  So be it.
 But your analysis of the USCCB’s actions and motives are flawed.  The Republicans were irrelevant.  They were never going to vote for this bill for political reasons.  And their votes weren’t necessary.  This was a 100% Democratic party.  Republicans were invited, but the party was going forward with or without them.  So the USCCB rightly took the issue to the Democrats.  If the bill had failed, it would have been solely because the “party of death” wouldn’t stand up to its own base of supporters who want to keep abortion legal.  Their priorities were on full display for all to see.
James Lindsay | 4/28/2010 - 3:32pm
Senate Catholic (and even ostensibly pro-life Mormons, like Reid of Nevada), saw Stupak as more than abortion neutral. They saw abortion neutrality as including abortions now subsidized by the Health Insurance Tax exclusion for employers. Neutrality has to mean that as employers transition from the exclusion to a subsidy, the same abortions are covered. If the bishops don't want that - they should not have said they wanted abortion neutral legislation. Of course, with the expansion of health reform, it is more likely that aggregate abortions will decrease, so one wonders why any Catholic would oppose a bill with a pro-life effect unless they are putting money and ideology before life.
James Lindsay | 4/28/2010 - 3:28pm
Let me reiterate this in a shorter piece. Had the bishops been playing fairly, they would have insisted that the GOP and the NRLC support final passage with Stupak. Since they couldn't bring that to the table, one cannot help but conclude that they were partisan - or rather that they are partisan without the ability to deliver within their coalition. When they can convince a Catholic Republican Senator to vote for financial reform or for immigration reform, I might be convinced that they are not acting partisanly or have the ability to follow through on their convictions. Until they can do that, by the way, they should not tell me how to vote.
John Stehn | 4/28/2010 - 3:25pm
Bill Kurtz:  Did I say Reid?  Pardon me, but I meant Reed (D-RI).  For that matter, I could have written: Begich (D-AK), Dodd (D-CT), Kaufman (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D- LA), Collins (R-ME), Mikulski (D-MD), Kerry (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Leahy (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), Murray (D-WA)…and the rest of the armada.  Facts are facts.  Catholic Democrats promote abortion every time they have an opportunity.  Their infatuation with it almost cost them their precious universal healthcare bill.  They are shilling for evil, while hiding behind the paper thin veils of “religious freedom” and “tolerance”.  Archbishop Burke’s criticisms of them and their party stick because they are true.  No one refutes him, they simply throw mud pies at him.
James Lindsay | 4/28/2010 - 3:20pm
First, the second a community health center is made to offer or offers an abortion, there will be legislation prohibiting it that will be quickly passed. We all support a legislative fix - however stopping the bill to do the fix was not necessary. Now that the bill is law, we are all for working with the Bishops to make any fixes required.
Second, the Bishops are incorrect on federal subsidies. Most private insurance is subsidized through a tax exclusion of funds for the purchase of private insurance. The new law does not go beyond that. While the subsidy in the new law is of a different character than the old tax subsidy, the essential nature of the two is fundamentally identical and no ground is really lost in the transition. Indeed, because the new approach expands health care to families that do not now have it, some families will be more likely to have the first child or additional children because they now have medical coverage - so overall the bill will decrease abortions. I would not have wanted to face my maker if I were one of the opposing bishops had I let health care die, as those who died as a consequence (both because they had no insurance or because they were aborted because the family had no insurance) would be there demanding justice.
Third, many of those who supported the ban original House bill saw the Senate bill as roughly equivalent and voted for it because they saw many of the objections propounded by the Church's allies on this issue to be partisan first and principled second - and with good reason for they likely were. Many of us share the desire to treat immigrants better and look forward to working with the Bishops on immigration reform and hope that as much pressure is applied to its those who aligned themselves with the Bishops on Health Reform. Indeed, we are quite chagrined that pressure was not put on the National Right to Life Committee to support the underlying House bill once the Stupak language was added. The fact that the Bishops seem to focus all of their displeasure on Democratic voters and members of Congress and none on Republican voters and members of Congress is troubling.
Michael Kelly | 4/28/2010 - 3:18pm
In regard to why pro-life organizations including the UCCB fought health care reform to the end, ''even when the president signed an executive order pledging that the new bill would not utlitize public funds to pay for abortions'', see also
Health Care and the Abandonment of Pro-Life Principle
by The Editors, 4/28/10
(ht: Mirror of Justice: ''Does the health care legislation expand the abortion license? Commonweal vs. Public Discourse''
William Kurtz | 4/28/2010 - 3:01pm
To John Stehn: Harry Reid is a Mormon.
To Jeff Landry: I'm glad you don't care for Archbishop Burke's style. His vituperative denunciations of our president bring to mind Fr. Coughlin's attacks on Franklin D. Roosevelt. (At least Coughlin had the decency to take off his Roman collar when doing so.) He may well be a brilliant canonist, but that makes him no more credible on civil matters than someone who can cite the Quran or proof-text the Old Testament.
Anonymous | 4/28/2010 - 2:33pm
Carfadi, Judge Burke, Bennett, Gov. Keating et al... when these laypeople work and get close to the bishops on that Review Board don't they all get a nosefull and run away??  Want to read a 2002 memo to  A/B Gregory when he was in charge of the USCCB by his aide/chancellor/layman/father David Spotanski. ? How much was this layman's advice worth??[I say about 2 billion]  How long will the bishops ignore lay advise? How much of Spotanski's  advise is still on the bishops table eight years later? Read it and weep. maybe the anti-catholic media charge will be silenced by this .. wishfull thinking? 
Anonymous | 4/28/2010 - 1:05pm
"As for Raymond Burke, he is as credible (and objective) a commentator as Rush Limbaugh, or James Dobson."
I'm no Burke fan (not my style), but he is a bishop of the Church and as such is a teaching authority, and by all accounts a brilliant canonist (he and Wurl's articles are interesting reads).  I think this gives him a bit more credibility than whatever partisans of either ideology (do you find Keith Olbermann credible?) you can find.  Again, style is different from substance.
John Stehn | 4/28/2010 - 12:33pm
Bill Kurtz:  Having passed the House with the Stupak language, the only thing stopping the bill in the Senate was the usual armada of ''Catholic'' Senators like Reid, Kerry, et. al., who believe that the deliberate willed destruction of an innocent human life is a basic human right, and a moral good that must be protected by the full force of law, no matter the costs.  As for Archbishop Burke, how can he loose credibility as a sucessor of the Apostles when reminds politicians, who claim to be Catholic, what it is that their Church teaches?
''Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother's womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven.'', Pope Pius XI, ''Casti Connubi'', 12/1930
William Kurtz | 4/28/2010 - 12:18pm
John Stehn, do you honestly think health care would have "sailed through" with the original Stupak language? Exactly one House Republican voted for it with the Stupak language- and he represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district. As for Raymond Burke, he is as credible (and objective) a commentator as Rush Limbaugh, or James Dobson.
John Stehn | 4/28/2010 - 11:38am
Wow.  Professor Cafardi sounds like a stand in for Chris Matthews or Keith Obermann on MSNBC.   His editorial is one long talking points memo from the DNC playbook.
The real questions, which of course he, Mr. Michael, and liberal Catholics can’t even conceptualize, is this:  Why did Catholic Democrats jeopardize this monumental expansion of health care for the sake of abortion?  If the Senate had adopted the Stupak language, the bill would have sailed through both houses, with the blessing of the Bishops.  But no!  Instead, Catholic Democrats, and their apparatchiks in the media, fought tooth and nail against that language, in order to keep the US safe for infanticide.  Where was the CHA and Sr. Keehan last Fall, when the Senate first took up the bill.  Why didn’t the CHA publically support the Stupak language, and lobby Catholic Senators to accept it, for the sake “universal healthcare”?  Which is more important for Catholic Democrats and the CHA…publically funded abortions for some, or universal health care for all?  For decades we’ve heard, ad nauseum, how allegedly important universal healthcare is to Catholic Democrats.  And yet, on the eve of realizing this dream of theirs they, along with the CHA, let everyone know what their REAL priorities are.  So important is this belief in abortion that they were even willing to watch universal healthcare go down the drain, rather than risk offending their abortion provider masters.
And Catholic Democrats actually get perturbed when Archbishop Burke refers to the Democratic Party as the “party of death”.
Tony Annett | 4/28/2010 - 11:34am
The bishops formed a prudential judgment that there would be insufficient protection against funding abortion, and that is fine, but it is just that. I can read the same provisions of the same bill, and come to a different conclusion:

(1) The funds appropriated for the Community Health Centers will be co-mingled with existing funds under the HHS and the Hyde amendment - there is no attempt or desire to segregate. This whole argument (which only arose at the last minute, and had a hint of desperation) is based on a "hermeneutic of suspicion" - it plays into the right-wing attempts to label Obama as the "most pro-abortion president ever" who is trying to sneak in abortion wherever he can.

(2) The bulwark against using federal subsidies to fund plans in the exchange that include abortion is watertight, and must satisfy rigorous accounting standards. If you want a plan with abortion, you pay a supplemental premium. In the version the bishops supported, you pay for a supplemental policy - the fungibility of money argument applies equally in both cases.

(3) They ignore a couple of other issues that could restrict abortion: (i) states have the right to ban plans with abortion from joining the exchange (this goes further than the Stupak amendment as it would even restrict those paying their own money); (ii) the requirement to make a separate payment is going to dissauade people from choosing these plans, which in turn will reduce the incidence of them being offered.

I was talking to some Irish priests recently, and they simply could not understand the USCCB position. Why was abortion the defining issue, especially since great attempts had been made to restrict funding for abortion? The CHA and Sr. Keehan had it right, and they are on the front lines of health care provision - they see every day that the current system is appalling and lacking in solidarity.

Prof. Cafardi makes an argument that the bishops need to address - why were they working in lock-step with the partisan NRLC on this issue? The abortion arguments, and the language of those arguments, was practically indistinguishable. The NRLC has opposed universal healthcare for years, and raised a lot of outrageous arguments about death panels and rationing. Is this a credible ally?

But it gets worse. Under the Bush administration, the NRLC endorsed the Medicare Advantage program, a program that sends federal subsidies to private insurance companies in connection with the Medicare program. While the moral issues are exactly the same, the NRLC did not fight for prohibitions against abortion funding. In fact, all that the Medicare Advantage appropriations bill says is that insurance companies who refuse to provide elective abortion cannot be discriminated against. This is incredibly weak. Remember, Medicare covers disability as well as abortion, so the issue is moot. And today, Medicare Advantage is providing elective abortion. Where were the bishops back then, and why are they so silent about this today?