After speaking with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on March 26, CNA sought a reaction from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) about the representative's claim that the Conference was being unrealistic about some of its expectations for the health care bill. However, the USCCB refused to provide comment or allow any staff members to comment on three separate occasions.
In an interview with Rep. Stupak on March 26, CNA asked whether he thought the bishops’ actions in the health care debate helped secure the executive order issued by President Obama barring the use of federal funds for abortions.
“No, because they wouldn’t support it,” Stupak replied.
The fate of the Stupak Amendment was “decided in December,” he added.
For the bishops or any others to seek statutory language within the health care bill and not agree to an executive order, was “pie in the sky,” the Michigan representative stated.
Speaking to the U.S. Bishops about how he needed 60 pro-life votes in the Senate, but only had 45, Rep. Stupak said, “Find me 15 more votes. I’ll be happy to run the language, I’ll personally walk it over to the Senate. But you need 15 more votes, realistically. There comes a point in time you’ve got to be honest and say ‘here’s what we can and can’t do.'”
In response to Rep. Stupak's statements, on March 26 CNA contacted Richard Doerflinger, an associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Contrary to previous practice, Doerflinger explained that he could not give comments unless the media relations office first gave its approval.
On March 30, CNA contacted Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of the media relations office, who replied that the USCCB was not able to provide any commentary “during Holy Week.”
CNA asked Sr. Walsh if she could be re-contacted after Holy Week for someone to provide commentary. The spokeswoman said “yes.”
On April 15, CNA contacted the media relations director again to inquire if someone could now provide commentary on Rep. Stupak's remarks. Sr. Walsh refused to give commentary or provide access to any other USCCB staff member about the matter, saying, "I think we'll pass."