By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Spokespersons for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are taking on the White House for its consistently misleading claims about abortion coverage in health care reform, and are expressing their disappointment that the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill that contains many problematic provisions.
Last week, during a White House press briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was challenged by a reporter about abortion coverage in health care reform and once again cited the Hyde Amendment as a law that will prevent such funding from occurring. However, almost everyone knows by now that the Hyde Amendment does not apply to current health care legislation.
Richard Doerflinger, the associate director for the pro-life office at the USCCB, confirmed in an Oct. 14 statement that all of the current bills fund abortions.
“No current health care bill approved by committee is consistent with longstanding and widely supported federal policies on abortion and conscience rights,” he said.
Addressing Gibbs’ comments, he said: “Contrary to recent misleading comments from some sources, this and other health care reform bills appropriate their own funds outside the scope of the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bills, and so are not covered by the Hyde amendment that prevents those bills from funding abortion coverage. This legislation needs its own provision against such funding.”
The U.S. bishops warned legislators in an Oct. 8 letter that failure to remove abortion funding from health care reform will cause them to “vigorously oppose” the legislation.
In the same letter, the bishops also voiced their opposition to the lack of conscience rights protection in the bills, and said the needs of immigrants and the poor are not being met in current draft legislation.
Kathy Saile, Director of the USCCB Office of Domestic Social Development, said: “We remain hopeful that problematic provisions in the bills, particularly the Senate Finance Committee bill, can be worked out. But time is running short and if the provisions are not fixed, the bishops have been clear that they will have no choice but to oppose a final bill. The stated purpose of pursuing health care reform was to provide those without health care coverage access to quality and affordable health care. There is real doubt that this bill will achieve that goal.”
Kevin Appleby, USCCB Director of Migration and Refugee Policy, said, “If the goal of health-care reform is to reduce significantly the number of uninsured, the Senate bill falls well short. As passed out of the Finance Committee, millions of legal immigrants and their families would be left outside the system, dependent on emergency rooms for their primary care.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The bishops wrote in their October 8 letter that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”
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