Some 60 leaders of women religious, representing 59,000 Catholic Sisters, have broken with the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops to support passage of the Senate health reform bill.
It is a brave act of conscience. They have already called down the Vatican fire of an Apostolic Visitation (investigation), apparently through their efforts to adapt their ministry to modern life. Or other cause. In any event, this departure may be seen as additional provocation, and is not likely to be smiled upon by an increasingly embattled pope. With an average age over 60, however, most of the nuns have endured the bishop-mishandled sex abuse scandal from its inception. Under the circumstances, a failure to respond to bishops with reflexive obedience should be not only forgiven but also applauded.
In a letter, the nuns urged all members of Congress to vote “yes” for the Senate health reform legislation. The heart of the letter is:
We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.
The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children. And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.
Congress must act. We are asking every member of our community to contact their congressional representatives this week. In this Lenten time, we have launched nationwide prayer vigils for health care reform. We are praying for those who currently lack health care. We are praying for the nearly 45,000 who will lose their lives this year if Congress fails to act. We are also praying for you and your fellow Members of Congress as you complete your work in the coming days. For us, this health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.
In this endorsement they joined the Catholic Health Association, which, Bold Faith Type observed, “represents 1,200 medical facilities and providers, including 620 hospitals.” CHA president Sister Carol Keehan in her letter took a similar stand. She wrote:
CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. 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. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.
Both stand on the side of human life and in opposition to misguided zealotry. If there is finally judgment for this, we believe it will not fall on them.
Mark Silk suggests that this division within the Catholic Church in America over a matter of public policy is so rare that no similar one can be recalled by well-schooled observers.
Bear in mind that we’re talking about the leaders of most of the nation’s Catholic nuns and Catholic health institutions standing in opposition to the USCCB.
Yes, that is rare.
David Gibson reports pro-life Democrat Virginia Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello says the Senate bill’s abortion funding safeguards are as good as the House’s.
The take away:
“As health care experts and pro-life leaders agree, the abortion language in the Senate bill upholds the Hyde Amendment standard. The Senate health care bill prevents federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortions, as the Catholic Hospital Association and legal experts have recently stated and as my own research has confirmed.”
Read the rest here.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, [correctly] contradicting both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and [misguided] members of Congress, said Monday that the Senate health-care bill uses no federal money to pay for health care plans which cover elective abortions.
In the key passage of an email begging Southern Baptists for telephone opposition, he said:
“If this bill passes, it will mean federal funding of abortion, a nearly half-trillion-dollar cut to Medicare, heavy taxes on individuals and businesses, higher premiums, and strong government control that will inevitably lead to a decline in patient care,” Land said.
Taking his points in order …
- “None” is the amount of “federal funding for abortion” found in an expert assessment by Washington and Lee law professor Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, whom Mark Silk describes as “an ardent pro-lifer who’s an expert on abortion and health care.”
- “Senior scare“ is what FactCheck.org calls the alleged “half trillion dollar cut to medicare.” Pulitzer Prize winning PolitiFact.com is no more complimentary.
- “Backward” is how he got it in predicting “heavy taxes.” Obama’s plan “cuts government spending.”
- “Strong government control” like that imposed by the Republican-spawned Massachusetts plan — RomneyCare, “implemented by former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney?”
- “Decline in patient care” = more scare words and the opposite is what helped inspired Catholic Health Association President Sr. Carol Keehan, DC to say “it is time for health reform.” As Jost explains, the Senate bill provides more care for those who need it worst. Not less.
Srsly, Brother Land.
But also, availability of more accessible health care promises to reduce the number of abortions.
T.R. Reid ["Universal Health Care Tends to Cut the Abortion Rate," Washington Post, 2010.03.14] compared the abortion rate of the United States to the abortion rates of comparable industrial nations which have universal health care, usingUnited Nations data, and found:
The U.N. data measure the number of abortions for women ages 15 to 44. They show that Canada, for example, has 15.2 abortions per 1,000 women; Denmark, 14.3; Germany, 7.8; Japan, 12.3; Britain, 17.0; and the United States, 20.8.
Yes, Britain, where abortion is legal and free. Where “8 percent of the population is Catholic (compared with 25 percent in the United States).” For many reasons, among them better accept to doctor-prescribed contraceptive measures. And as was explained by Cardinal Basil Hume, who when Reid lived in London “was the senior Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales:”
If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?
The Senate bill does move us further in that abortion-discouraging direction. For example, it designates more than $7 billion – “$11 billion in the president’s amended version” – for Federally Qualified Health Centers, David Gibson writes as part of a painstaking analysis of the legislation, “to allow them to serve an estimated 15 million more people who do not have adequate health care.” Indeed, “last year health centers provided prenatal, perinatal, and post-natal/post-partum care to 1 of every 8 children born in the U.S.” Without providing any abortions. None, wrote the National Association of Community Health Centers in a recent letter.
The expert analyst to whom we referred above is Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, who holds the Robert L. Willett Family Professorship of Law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law and is, Mark Silk tells us, “an ardent pro-lifer.” Jost said:
“The bottom line is that health care reform is pro-life,” Jost said. “We’re going to save an awful lot of lives with this bill … I identify as a Christian, strongly, and I identify as someone who believes in the sacredness of life. I just think this is a pro-life bill. I’m really discouraged that people not only don’t want it but also are spreading erroneous information about it. Because I don’t think that’s something that Christians should do.”
Nor do we.
Repudiated Rick Warren friend Martin Ssempa, Pastor of the Makerere Community Church, has issued a video response [segments with analysis] which includes all of the errors and distortions of the earlier United National Task Force letter.
He told BBC:
I’m opposed to the death sentence. I’m also not happy when you describe people in the kind of language you find in this private member’s bill. … [It is] a diminishment of the individuals concerned.
About a third of the Ugandan population considers itself to be affiliated with the Church of Uganda (Anglican).
Sentamu’s measured, authoritative voice is an important counter on this issue to the counterfactual, poorly written letter directed by the hastily organized Ugandan National Task Force Against Homosexuality at Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren. The Task Force demanded an apology from Warren, who urged his “fellow pastors in Uganda” to oppose the measure.
About 40% of Uganda’s population is Roman Catholic.
The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue.
A video report of Archbishop Lwanga’s message:
Robert Pear wrote
The Senate voted Thursday to reinvent the nation’s health care system, passing a bill to guarantee access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and to rein in health costs as proposed by President Obama.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says the Senate version of health reform does not go far enough in limiting abortion.
Howard M. Friedman, primary author of the blog Religion Clause, explains why.
The Bishops’ concern seems to be that under [the current version as amended], abortion coverage will still be in some policies that receive government subsidies, so long as a separate check is written for the part of the premium applicable to that coverage. Instead, according to a Dec. 14 letter from the Bishops, they want language in the House bill that was proposed as an amendment by Sen. Ben Nelson, but was defeated by the Senate. That language provides that no federal funds could be used “to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes abortion coverage.” After that loss, Sen. Nelson negotiated the language in the Manager’s Amendment and according to AP argued that the differences were “about a staple.” By that he means that the disagreement is over whether abortion coverage — which would be paid for separately in either case — would be a part of the subsidized policy (not acceptable to the Bishops) or in a separate rider stapled to it (acceptable to the Bishops).