Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has praised the Catholic religious sisters who endorsed the Senate health care bill, claiming they deserve gratitude for making “a critical demonstration of support” for a bill that significantly increased coverage of “reproductive health care.”
Writing for the Huffington Post Wednesday in her capacity as president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Richards claimed that it was Catholic nuns who “most importantly broke with the bishops and the Vatican to announce their support for health care reform.”
“This brave and important move, demonstrating that they cared as much about the health care of families in America as they did about church hierarchy, was a critical demonstration of support.”
The group NETWORK claimed in a March 17 letter to the House of Representatives that it represented 59,000 women religious across the U.S. It urged members of Congress to support the bill.
Their statement was uncritically reported by the Associated Press. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others working to pass the legislation invoked the sisters’ endorsement for support.
On March 18 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) spokeswoman Sr. Mary Ann Walsh said NETWORK “grossly overstated” their numbers.
“The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice,” she added. “There are 793 religious communities in the United States,” Sr. Walsh said.
Another group of women religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), issued a statement saying it represented 10,000 sisters and supported the U.S. bishops’ criticisms of the Senate health care bill.
In her Huffington Post essay, Richards said in the last days of the debate over the health care bill, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and the USCCB “threatened to bring down health care completely over their narrow demands.”
“Bart Stupak may not ask the nuns for advice, as he recently announced to the press, but maybe next time she should,” Richards jabbed.
She praised Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) for fighting against an “abortion ban” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) gathered 41 signatures of members who pledged to vote against any final bill with the “Stupak ban.”
“These women stood in the way of plenty of men in Congress who were ready to cut a deal, whether with Bart Stupak or the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,” she continued.
Richards said Planned Parenthood was “committed” to changing the “egregious” Nelson language in the bill that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday. She claimed the bill unjustly treats abortion coverage differently than all other health care.
However, she also said the bill was a “huge victory for women’s reproductive health” because it significantly increased insurance coverage of “reproductive health care, including family planning.”
“Reproductive health care” and “women’s rights” are euphemisms common among abortion advocates.
Richards, the daughter of former Democratic Texas governor Ann Richards, noted that some in Congress opposed her agenda.
“The simple and discouraging truth is that we have an anti-choice House of Representatives,” she claimed.
She lamented that 64 Democrats voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment and that there are “too many” Republicans and Democrats in Congress opposed to “women’s rights.”
“We need more than health care; we need women and men elected to office who will stand up for our health and our rights, even when it's hard. So here's to the women leaders in Congress -- and to the nuns -- and to the women everywhere who were counting on them. They need our gratitude and our support,” Richards’ Huffington Post essay concluded.