Catholic Health Association: "Not a Shred of Disagreement" with the Bishops

 In case you saw the recent New York Times story that was headlined "Catholic Groups Suports Senate on Abortion Aid," and started out with this graf.

In an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul, the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise on the issue, raising hopes of breaking an impasse in Congress and stirring controversy within the church.


...then you'll be interested in this CNS story, dated Dec. 28, in which Sister Carol Keehan, rebuts the Times' piece.

-- WASHINGTON (CNS) Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, the Catholic Health Association and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are working together to achieve health reform legislation that does not expand federal funding of abortion, according to the CHA president and CEO.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Dec. 28 that her organization has never wavered in its commitment to health care that protects "from conception to natural death," as outlined in the CHA document, "Our Vision for U.S. Health Care." She disputed a report in The New York Times Dec. 26 that a recent CHA statement on Senate negotiations over abortion funding in health reform legislation represented a split with the bishops.  "There is not a shred of disagreement between CHA and the bishops," Sister Carol said. "We believe there is a great possibility and probability that in conference committee we can work toward a solution that will prevent federal funding of abortion." She said the CHA, which represents more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., "brings a lot of expertise with funding structures in the marketplace" to the debate and hopes to "bring that to bear" during the conference committee's work.

Shortly before the Senate approved its version of health reform legislation early Dec. 24, the chairmen of three USCCB committees said the bill should not be approved "without incorporating essential changes to ensure" that it "truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all."  In a letter sent late Dec. 22, about 36 hours before the Senate's 60-39 vote along party lines, the USCCB leaders pledged continued efforts to incorporate needed changes during the work of the House-Senate conference committee.  "For many months, our bishops' conference has worked with members of Congress, the administration and others to fashion health care reform legislation that truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all," said the letter signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishops William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and John C. Wester of Salt Lake City.

The three chair the USCCB committees on Pro-Life Activities, on Domestic Justice and Human Development and on Migration, respectively.  "We regret to say that in all the areas of our moral concern, the Senate health care reform bill is deficient," the three chairmen added.  The bishops said their biggest problem with the Senate bill was its treatment of abortion funding, which "not only falls short of the House's standard but violates long-standing precedent in all other federal health programs."

In addition to not maintaining the legal status quo on abortion funding that has been supported by President Barack Obama and by the majority of Americans in many polls, the abortion provisions in the manager's amendment to the Senate bill would require purchasers of some health insurance plans "to pay for other people's abortions in a very direct and explicit way," the USCCB letter said.  "There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people's abortions," it added.

The Senate bill also fails to include provisions to prevent "discrimination against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion" and would not protect the rights of Catholic and other institutions "to provide and purchase health coverage consistent with their moral and religious convictions on other procedures," the chairmen said.  The letter also urged changes in the Senate bill's provisions barring undocumented immigrants from purchasing health insurance from an exchange with their own money and banning legal immigrants from federal health benefit programs for five years.

Sister Carol said Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick based his Dec. 26 story on a Dec. 17 CHA statement which noted that CHA had not reviewed the language of various amendments on the table at the time but was "encouraged by recent deliberations and the outline" Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., was developing. At that point, "I felt they were making progress and were getting where we needed to be," she said. "I understand that it doesn't make a good story to say (CHA and the USCCB) are working together," Sister Carol added. "But it would have been an honest story."

In an earlier statement, Cardinal DiNardo said the USCCB would continue to oppose the Senate legislation "unless and until" it is amended to "comply with long-standing Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them." The Hyde amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman's life.  On abortion, the USCCB had backed a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and others. Similar to a House-passed measure sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the amendment would have incorporated the Hyde amendment protections into the health reform bill. When the Senate tabled Nelson's amendment in a 54-45 vote Dec. 8, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, USCCB president, and the three USCCB chairmen called it "a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health reform."

Nelson joined with the 57 other Senate Democrats and two independents in voting Dec. 19 to end debate on the health reform legislation, cutting off a Republican filibuster. Nelson told the Lincoln Journal Star Dec. 23 that he "did not compromise my pro-life principles" by supporting the Senate language on abortion funding. "We just found different language that will work," he added.  ---CNS

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Greg Wilde
9 years ago
It is immoral to impose such a tax burden on our children and grandchildren. Abortion is not the only issue in the debate.
Michael Liddy
9 years ago
Thank you Fr. Martin. The New York Times and almost every other news source does a horrible job in setting the record straight. Just mislead the public and move on.
James Lindsay
9 years ago
The USCCB is moving the ball. Private insurance (which is publicly subsidized through the tax code) forces people to pay for the abortions of others. All commerical activity does as well, to some extent. If you go to Wendy's for a cheeseburger, it is almost certain that some slice of your payment will go to a pimply faced kid who is saving up for his girlfriend's abortion. The question is, how remote is the act from the payment for a cheeseburger as compared to payment of taxes. Both are pretty remote.

You need to look at the overall impact on the unborn (as opposed to the impact on the influence of the USCCB and the pro-life movement in getting their two cents in the bill, i.e., tribalism). Overall, giving the working poor more health care will lead them to keep their kids. There are other necessary reforms as well - including federal limits on late term abortions of all types, however on balance health care reform is a good thing for the unborn.

On the issue of debt burden - this is only a problem if you have kids who will be rich, since taxation is by income and debt ownership comes with the ability to pay taxes. If your kids will be in the top income quintile, they will pay more - largely because people currently in that quintile are currently paying too little.
Michael Liddy
9 years ago
This made me laugh - The Times submitted a correction!
Published: December 30, 2009
An article on Saturday about an apparent split between Catholic hospitals and Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul misstated the name of the university where an expert on Catholic ethics, M. Cathleen Kaveny, is a professor at the law school. It is the University of Notre Dame; there is no “Notre Dame University.”
9 years ago
Not so fast. This from Inside the Vatican -Deal Hudson 12/29/2009:

Who’s being honest here? Sister Keehan’s statement on December 17 contained the following:

“[N]ow that a public health insurance option is no longer on the table, we are increasingly confident that Senator Casey’s language can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion. . . . It is our understanding that the language now being written would prohibit federal funding of abortion,” Keehan said.

The problem for Keehan is that the only groups who agreed with her view of the Senate bill were Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Catholic Democrats. They are all organizations that have repeatedly demonstrated their allegiance to the Democratic Party and the Obama White House by subordinating the non-negotiable life issues to political success.


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