Life Issues Forum
Bruised, but Not Broken
By Deirdre A. McQuade
April 1, 2010
The pro-life movement recently suffered a discouraging setback during efforts to provide life-affirming health care to millions of uninsured Americans. The Catholic bishops and others fought hard for many months to retain conscience rights and the longstanding ban against federal funding of elective abortions. The final health care reform law, passed narrowly against the bishops’ opposition, fails to meet these widely-supported, fundamental moral requirements.
If not changed, the law will, for the first time in over 30 years, subsidize abortions throughout the nine months of pregnancy – for any reason – and force Americans to be complicit in the direct taking of innocent life. Many who conscientiously object to abortion will be forced to pay for others’ abortions through their insurance premiums or taxes.
No amount of good in the new law will ever justify the moral evil of facilitating the destruction of precious human life. Not “precious” in just a poetic, pastel, feel-good sense as in the popular “Precious Moments” figurines, and not “precious” like works of art that command a lot of money, but “precious” in the ultimate sense: being of such inestimable value that it cannot be put on a scale and traded off for other goods – even other goods honoring the dignity of the human person. God creates persons to live eternally and so we cannot and must not be put on a cost-benefit scale. The deliberate destruction of innocent human life at its most defenseless stage is never, under any circumstances, justifiable.
The debate over how best to improve and expand health care services to all should never have hinged on the issue of abortion funding. Abortion is not health care, because killing is not healing. Inclusion of abortion was a huge and ultimately tragic obstacle to authentic reform that would honor all principles of Catholic social teaching.
The bishops repeatedly called for principled reform that puts the needs of the poor and the unborn first. Commenting on the proposed bill, Cardinal Francis George, as president of the bishops’ conference, called abortion funding “too high a price” for much-needed reform. The Catholic faithful and our pro-life friends agreed. Since the debate began, over a million e-mails were sent to Congress through www.usccb.org/action alone. Unfortunately, despite our prayers, countless phone calls, faxes, and letters, our voices were not heeded by those in power.
What do we do now? As a movement, we are bruised, but not broken. Our hope in the Resurrection is real as we seek the grace to re-group and unite in efforts to protect all human life from conception to natural death. We will work to fix the serious problems in the new health care law. The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal abortion funding through the appropriations process, must be defended. States are also exploring legislation to exclude abortion from new health coverage within their borders.Abortion rates go up when the government funds abortions. So we need to work twice as hard to reduce the number of abortions, help pregnant women feel free to choose life, educate the public on the physical and emotional consequences of abortion, and share God’s mercy with those women and men who have an abortion in their past. Finally, we must recommit ourselves to prayer for our nation, that those in authority will use their power to defend the defenseless: unborn children and all who are vulnerable at any stage of life.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops’ pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.