The Catholic Health Association has issued a statement welcoming the nomination of former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, Daschle’s strong pro-abortion record has led some pro-life leaders to deem him a "disaster appointment."
Writing in a December 11 statement, Sister Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) issued a statement on the appointment.
Sister Keehan said CHA "welcomes" Daschle’s appointment as HHS head and also as the person set to oversee a proposed White House Office of Health Reform. She also said CHA is "pleased" that Obama named Jeanne Lambrew as deputy director of the proposed White House Office of Health Reform.
"We applaud the President-elect for choosing these two extraordinary and capable leaders who bring an enormous understanding of health care delivery issues and the need for meaningful reform for American families and businesses," she said.
She said the announcement of the appointments shows that Obama understands health care reform to be a major domestic policy issue.
"At the same time, he remains true to his pre-election promises to achieve health care reform that provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans while building on the existing health care system," Sister Keehan continued, advocating health reform "designed to create and sustain a strong, healthy national community."
"The reforms should truly promote the nation's well-being and cover everyone with a reasonable, basic benefits package. To achieve this goal, the Catholic health ministry looks forward to working with the President-elect and with future HHS Secretary Daschle and Deputy Director Lambrew."
Pro-life commentator Jill Stanek criticized the Daschle selection, telling CNA in a Tuesday e-mail:
"Tom Daschle is a disaster appointment, the opposite of a national protector of health and human services. Daschle ardently supports abortion to the extent he supports taxpayer funded abortion within nationalized health care, and he disdains abstinence education.
"The only reason President-elect Obama appointed Daschle was to assure Obama's radical support of the abortion industry would be extended through HHS," Stanek argued.
Obama aides and advisors have reported that, after he takes office, Obama will try to overturn new HHS regulations which explicitly protect the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals and institutions.
In a Monday press release, South Dakota Right to Life (SDRTL) expressed its "deep disappointment" concerning the selection of Daschle.
"Tom Daschle is as pro-abortion as elected officials come. While in the U.S. Senate, he seldom met a pro-life bill that he supported. He endorsed Roe v Wade, supported making taxpayers fund abortions, and supported the partial birth abortion ban only after attempting to water it down with pro-abortion amendments," stated Rachel Kippley, state director for SDRTL.
The group cited the National Right to Life Committee’s ranking of Daschle. He garnered a 27 percent ranking in the 2003-2004 term, a 0 percent ranking in 2001-2002, an 11 percent ranking in 1999-2000.
Saying that the HHS secretary plays a "key role" in shaping U.S. health care policy, SDRTL remarked, "pro-lifers need to be prepared for a bumpy four years when it comes to attempts at passing pro-life federal legislation."