In his op-ed today, E. J. Dionne criticizes U.S. Catholic bishops for their opposition to the health-care bill due for a vote this weekend in the House of Representatives. He characterizes their opposition as “a highly tendentious reading of the abortion provisions in the Senate measure [i.e., the bill which the House is being asked to approve].”
He is incorrect. The bishops’ interpretation is far from tendentious and is, in fact, shared by every major pro-life organization, including ours. The bill under consideration, if it becomes law, will mark a sea change in the way the national government deals with abortion. The federal government would be supporting insurance plans that provide for abortion for the first time, and states would have to opt out. This kind of provision is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment, but the Hyde Amendment applies only to appropriations for Labor and HHS; the health-care bill, which is “self-funding” and not a Labor or HHS appropriation, is not subject to Hyde. Perhaps even worse, the bill contains seemingly innocuous provisions, such as measures regarding “preventive care,” that are subject to control by the decidedly pro-choice Obama administration, and which could therefore lead to expanded federal funding of abortion.
Congressmen Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts corrected all these problems with their amendment to the original House bill. The Senate intentionally stripped it out. Thus, Cardinal George was right when he said it is the supporters of the Senate bill, not its opponents, who are putting the goal of national health-care reform at risk.
The first issue of “social justice” is protection of the defenseless unborn. I expect most Americans would agree with the teaching of the Catholic Church that the right to life is the “first right” and the very foundation of a just society. The bishops are right to be vigilant that it does not creep into national law and policy through the backdoor of national health-care reform.
A Response to E. J. Dionne: Vigilant, Not ‘Tendentious’
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