Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2010 / 16:41 pm
In a statement Monday, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the U.S. bishops are now opposing the current Senate health care bill because the cost “is too high” and “the loss too great” for it to be supported. Cardinal George also expressed concern with the Catholic Health Association's support the bill.
Spelling out his main objections to the Senate health care legislation, the cardinal said, “What do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly.”
“The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies,” he explained. “In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.”
“Further,” added the prelate, “the Senate bill authorizes and appropriates billions of dollars in new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills covered by the Hyde amendment and similar provisions. As the bill is written, the new funds it appropriates over the next five years, for Community Health Centers for example (Sec. 10503), will be available by statute for elective abortions, even though the present regulations do conform to the Hyde amendment. Regulations, however, can be changed at will, unless they are governed by statute.”
“Additionally,” he noted, “no provision in the Senate bill incorporates the longstanding and widely supported protection for conscience regarding abortion as found in the Hyde/Weldon amendment. Moreover, neither the House nor Senate bill contains meaningful conscience protection outside the abortion context. Any final bill, to be fair to all, must retain the accommodation of the full range of religious and moral objections in the provision of health insurance and services that are contained in current law, for both individuals and institutions.”
In contrast with the U.S. Bishops, Sr. Carol Keehan, director of the Catholic Health Association, expressed approval in a statement on March 13 for the current Senate bill. “The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care,” she asserted. “If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.”