The ensuing debate over proposed legislation to overhaul America's healthcare system is generating news and capturing the attention of Americans with a steadily growing level of outrage. And one particularly outrageous element of that legislation as it currently exists in the House of Representatives demands our special attention. If passed in its current form, this legislation will mandate abortion coverage in health care reform and it will be paid for with our tax dollars. That's because, unless amended to specifically exclude abortion coverage, abortion will automatically become a minimum required benefit as a simple matter of interpretation of the law. Here's how it works.
Under the House bill, insurers would be required to provide an "essential benefits package," which would be defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Unless Congress specifically excludes abortion from coverage, it is a virtual certainty that abortion will be part of that package either because it will be overtly required by the Secretary of HHS, or because the courts will determine that the broadly worded coverage requirements include abortion.
Last week, the House began consideration of H.R. 3200, "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009." In two of the three House committees that have jurisdiction over the bill, courageous pro-life representatives made futile attempts to amend the legislation to assure that it would steer clear of enacting the most sweeping abortion mandate since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which imposed legal abortion on America. You can watch a video recap of one of those committee debates here. (The Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to take up the bill this week, and pro-life reps in that committee will also try to amend the legislation.)
Hard to imagine it was this same President who only a week ago reportedly told Pope Benedict he is committed to reducing the incidence of abortion. The proposed legislation, in stark contrast, unless amended, will make abortion more readily available. Yet, when asked by Katie Couric in a July 22 interview whether he favored a government option that would cover abortions, the president responded:
Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.
Mr. Obama's impatience to ramrod this bill through Congress and to hide the abortion mandate has gotten more than just pro-life Americans "distracted" and upset. At least twenty demonstrably pro-life Democrats have already pledged to vote against a health reform bill that mandates abortion coverage. In a letter to Pelosi on June 25, they wrote: "we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan..." And in the Senate, majority leader Harry Reid put everyone on notice last week that the Senate will not take up the bill until September. That gives Americans some time to tell their Senators that they do not want healthcare reform that mandates abortion coverage and ushers in the era of socialized medicine with other dark implications.
On that note, the proposed legislation would literally place the health and longevity of elderly Americans in jeopardy. An op-ed in last Thursday's Wall Street Journal was positively chilling in its expose of how Obamacare will play out for the nation's elderly, and most immediately for baby boomers. "Legislation now being rushed through Congress," wrote Betsy McCaughey, chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York, "will reduce access to care, pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely, and doom baby boomers to painful later years."
Such clearly is not the healthcare reform America needs or wants. Rather, it constitutes an unprecedented attempt to impose the most radical left wing ideology on American culture in recent memory. It's time to let our Senators know that we will not tolerate Obamacare now or ever.
Father Thomas Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie). More of Fr. Berg’s publications are available at www.fatherberg.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.