Health care bill contains money-laundering system for abortion, Catholic bishops’ memo says


A memo from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says that the Ellsworth Amendment to the U.S. House’s proposed health care reform bill is not a “meaningful compromise” but instead is a “money-laundering system” that does not address pro-life concerns about federal funding of abortion.

The memo, written by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities associate director Richard Doerflinger, discusses H.R. 3962 and the Ellsworth Amendment.

The amendment claims to prevent federal funds from being used for abortions, reports. It requires that federal money be segregated from individuals’ premium payments and that abortions can only be paid for by using the premiums and not the federal subsidies.

On examination, Doerflinger wrote, this is “not a meaningful compromise.”

“It addresses none of the substantial criticisms offered by the Catholic bishops’ conference and other pro-life advocates for health care reform,” he said.


“While all funds in the public plan begin as private funds, in the pockets of taxpayers and purchasers, they all become federal funds once they are paid to the government (whether paid as taxes or as premiums) – and all abortions in the plan are paid for by the federal government,” the USCCB memo continued, according to

“So this money-laundering system, aside from making the operation of the public plan more unwieldy, does nothing to address pro-life concerns.”

Concerning private insurance plans which can be purchased with federal subsidies, Doerflinger said the bill’s approach of “segregating” the cost of abortion into a distinct “abortion surcharge” charged to all purchasers “only makes the mandatory payment of abortion in these plans even more specific and direct than if the purchaser had to pay it as part of an overall premium.”

CNA spoke about the health care bill with Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, in a Friday phone interview.

“The situation is very fluid,” said Johnson, who reported that all Republicans are opposed to how abortion is treated in the current bill. “There is an important group of Democrats who in different degrees, want to fix the pro-abortion provisions. We, as well as the USCCB, are working hard to oppose abortion financed either directly (by the government) or through private plans who provide abortion.”

“Unfortunately we are against the leadership in Congress and the White House, whose allies and staff are running around actively opposing the amendments we are seeking and who just want to paper over the problem.”

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“This is even less than a shell game,” Johnson told CNA. “Regrettably most of the mainstream media are helping in the confusion either by laziness or because of ideological sympathy with the cover up.”

Pro-life leaders have sought to add a “Hyde Amendment” to the bill which would explicitly exclude federal funding for most abortions.

In a letter sent to the House of Representatives on Friday, the U.S. bishops urged lawmakers to vote against a “closed rule” motion that if approved would prevent the addition of amendments to the current health care bill, including the pro-life Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

The bishops wrote, “we write to strongly urge you to vote for essential changes and a fair process in the House of Representatives to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all. Unfortunately, the legislation moving to the House floor falls fundamentally short of this essential goal.”

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