Sen. Casey says faith groups praise his abortion proposal, U.S. bishops not satisfied

12182009   casey dinardo Sen. Bob Casey Jr. / Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

Sen. Bob Casey's office released a statement to CNA on Friday afternoon claiming that the senator's abortion compromise has received “widespread praise” from health groups and faith leaders around the country. However, the U.S. bishops' head of pro-life issues, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, charged that Casey's language does not address the fact that the Senate bill still fails to comply with “longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions.”

Following the defeat of the Nelson Amendment in the Senate, Sen. Casey (D-Penn.), who helped co-sponsor it, sent a new compromise proposal to Sen. Nelson that would hopefully garner enough votes to pass the Senate.

After reviewing the Casey proposal, Nelson rejected the language, saying that it “does not yet ensure that a longstanding federal standard barring public funding of abortion would be maintained in the Senate health care bill the Senate has been debating this month.”

Speaking in a press release on Friday, Sen. Casey underscored that “It is critical to maintain restrictions on federal funding of abortion. But we must also focus on the needs of vulnerable pregnant women and do all we can to assist them at a time when they may find themselves alone and without support.”

“For far too long, our focus on reducing the number of abortions has emphasized federal funding prohibitions. I support and will always support federal funding prohibitions. But we must do more if we truly want to reduce the number of abortions in this country,” he added. “It was critically important to me to include positive support for vulnerable pregnant women, which the research clearly shows is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions.”

According to the statement released to CNA, Casey's proposed language claims to provide conscience protections to health care providers and medical facilities. It also sets out to create an opt-out clause for individuals so that they are not compelled to fund abortions through their personal premiums in any future Exchange.

“Casey was also successful,” says the statement, “in adding two significant provisions to the Senate language that will help reduce the number of abortions and support adoption: the creation of a 10-year $250 million pregnancy Assistance Fund, and a two year increase to the Adoption Tax Credit.

Despite the fact that no one has actually seen the proposed language of the compromise, Sen. Casey's office released a list of religious groups who have come forward in support of the illusory language. The list includes U.S. Ambassador to Malta Douglas KmiecSr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the Catholic Health Association and professors from Boston College, Fordham University,  Marquette University, the University of Dayton, the Catholic University of America and the University of Notre Dame.

But Sen. Casey's proposal didn't pass muster with the U.S. bishops, whose chairman of Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said today that the Senate bill will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment.

“Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy,”Cardinal DiNardo stated.

Some news reports have mentioned that Sen. Casey's opt-out mechanism will have the default be that a taxpayer's money goes to funding abortions, requiring citizens to apply for an exemption.

“Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage IS the norm,” Cardinal DiNardo insisted.

Applauding Sen. Casey's efforts, Cardinal DiNardo emphasized that his improvements to the bill “do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”

Cardinal DiNardo also stressed that “numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”

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