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Another Unholy Compromise on Obamacare

10:08 AM, Mar 19, 2010 • By MARK TOOLEY
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Rehashing their lobby for a proposed abortion compromise in the U.S. Senate version of Obamacare in December, liberal Catholics and Evangelicals are now urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Senate version of the bill. 

Another Unholy Compromise on Obamacare

The self-professed evangelical and Catholic “pro-life leaders” insist that the Senate’s version of Obamacare sufficiently safeguards against abortion funding.  They also try to rebut its pro-life critics and imply they are guilty of misinformation.  But, instead, they illustrate that some “social justice” Catholics and evangelicals prioritize a government take-over of health care over firm protections for the unborn.

“As Christians committed to a consistent ethic of life, and deeply concerned with the health and well-being of all people, we want to see health care reform enacted,” wrote the religious activists in their open letter to Congress.  “Our nation has a rare and historic opportunity to expand coverage to tens of millions of people, make coverage more affordable for all families, and crack down on many of the most harmful practices of the health insurance industry.”

Signers this time around, as in December, include liberal evangelicals such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, David Gushee of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Glenn Stassen of Fuller Seminary, and Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, who is a prominent board member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).  Notably absent this time were other NAE leaders such as Christianity Today editor David Neff and immigration activist Samuel Rodriguez.

The Catholic signers this time omitted Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine Law School and Obama's nominated ambassador to Malta.  Many of the Catholics this time seemed to be associated with “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.”  Stephen F. Schneck, who directs the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America was a signer this time, as was Francis Xavier Doyle, former Associate General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Overall, the evangelical signers are probably more prominent in their community than the Catholic ones, and the declaration overall illustrated a continuing campaign to disengage evangelicals from pro-life concerns and instead towards “social justice” advocacy for statist causes.  Specifically, this letter to Congress hoped to discredit the Catholic bishops, pro-life groups, and conservative evangelicals who strongly oppose any version of Obamacare that facilitates abortion funding.    

“We are writing because of our concern about the lack of clear and accurate information regarding abortion provisions in the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009,” the signers opined.  They insisted that the Senate version will uphold “longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion,” while offering “new and important supports for vulnerable pregnant women.”  It is an ongoing theme for the Evangelical Left especially that expansion of government social services will reduce the “need” for abortions.   

In defending the Senate bill, the liberal evangelicals and Catholics cite prohibitions on requiring abortion coverage for any health care plan offered through the proposed state insurance exchanges; prohibitions on insurance companies using federal funds for abortions except what’s allowed under the Hyde Amendment; requiring insurance coverage of abortion to charge a separate premium payment; allowing states to ban any abortion coverage through insurance plans in the exchanges; and $250 million to help “vulnerable pregnant women.”

“Reforming our health care system is necessarily complex,” the letter admitted, “And the provisions related to abortion, or any other issue, require careful examination of the facts as they exist in the legislative language.”  But while the signers are distressed by how pro-life groups have supposedly mis-portrayed the Senate bill, they do not specifically rebut the concerns. Instead, they only repeat Nebraska senator Ben Nelson’s talking points when he justified his support after having failed to secure tighter restrictions similar to the House bill’s Pitts-Stupak amendment.   

When explaining why the Catholic bishops oppose the Senate version of Obamacare, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained that it would dramatically change the “status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment,” which  “excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies.”  By contrast, the Senate bill stipulates only that at least 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.”

Cardinal George also pointed out that the Senate bill authorizes billions of dollars in “new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills” covered by the Hyde amendment’s restrictions.   New funds for community health centers could fund abortions because no statute would prevent changing regulations that currently abide by Hyde.  He also complained that the Senate bill lacks Hyde’s strong conscience protections on abortion and offers no “meaningful” conscience protection beyond abortion.  

“This is not quibbling over technicalities,” Cardinal George insisted when explaining why the Catholic bishops “must” oppose the Senate bill.  “The deliberate omission in the Senate Bill of the necessary language that could have taken this moral question off the table and out of play leaves us still looking for a way to meet the President’s and our concern to provide health care for those millions whose primary care physician is now an emergency room doctor.”  He quoted Pope Benedict by affirming there is “an indissoluble bond between an ethic of life and every other aspect of social ethics.”

Evidently that “indissoluble bond” is not so important for the liberal evangelicals and Catholics lobbying the House for the Senate version of Obamacare.

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