U.S. Bishops Support Nelson Amendment

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

U.S. Bishops announced yesterday that they will support an amendment to the Senate health care bill that will prohibit federal funding for abortions. Their support was expressed in a letter to every member of the U.S. Senate who are expected to vote on the measure today.

“We urgently ask you to support an essential amendment to be offered by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions,” the letter said.

A vote is expected today on the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment which will prevent the Senate’s health reform bill from using federal funds to pay for health plans that include elective abortions. The ban would be similar to the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, to ban federal funds in the Health and Human Services’ appropriations bill from paying for coverage that includes most abortions.
The letter states that, as it currently stands, the Senate bill “allows the HHS Secretary to mandate abortion coverage throughout the government-run ‘community health insurance option.’  It also provides funding for other plans that cover unlimited abortions, and creates an unprecedented mandatory ‘abortion surcharge’ in such plans that will require pro-life purchasers to pay directly and explicitly for other people’s abortions. The bill does not maintain essential nondiscrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion. The Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment simply corrects these grave departures from current federal policy.”

The letter goes on to say that the Nelson amendment “will have the same effect as the Stupak-Smith-Ellsworth-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Pitts Amendment already accepted in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Like that amendment, it does not change the current situation in our country: Abortion is legal and available, but no federal dollars can be used to pay for elective abortions or plans that include elective abortions. This amendment does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds. It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.”
The letter was signed by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration.         
In supporting the amendment the bishops urged Catholics to work for passage by contacting their senators. One vehicle to do this is through www.usccb.org/action

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