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.