Life Issues Forum
Questions about Abortion in the new Health Care Law?
By Tom Grenchik
April 16, 2010
Since the recent passage of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” scores of people have been contacting the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with a multitude of questions, such as:
Does the new health care legislation actually provide federal funds for elective abortions? Answer: Yes.
Can individuals be forced to pay for other people’s abortions even if they are morally opposed? Answer: Yes.
Are there new challenges to the consciences of individuals, employers and health care providers? Answer: Yes.
Didn’t President Obama’s Executive Order fix the abortion and conscience problems that the bishops had raised about this legislation? Answer: No.
For those interested in more in-depth answers, we offer callers a couple of helpful new resources developed by the bishops’ conference:
- a one-page fact sheet called “Abortion Funding in the New Health Care Reform Act”: www.usccb.org/healthcare/Abortion-Funding-in-Health-Care-Law-4-12-10.pdf.
- a 9-page legal analysis of the abortion and conscience issues in the Act and President Obama’s subsequent Executive Order: www.usccb.org/healthcare/03-25-10Memo-re-Executive-Order-Final.pdf.
Then there are callers with tactical questions, like:
Weren’t the bishops just out to kill health care reform all along? Answer: No.
Haven’t the bishops just been over-reacting to abortion-related problems that weren’t really there? Answer: No.
Can anything be done to fix these problems? Answer: Yes.
For many, many months now the U.S. bishops have made statements and sent numerous letters to Congress with the message that our country needs reform that makes health care available to everybody, while killing nobody (www.usccb.org/healthcare/official_documents.shtml#releases). The bishops have long supported reform, but they made it very clear that no matter how much perceived good might be accomplished, such legislation must not promote a fundamental moral evil or force people to participate in that evil. Health care reform should not have become the vehicle for expanding abortion or challenging conscience protection. It was not the bishops who forced the issue, but congressional leaders themselves. They refused to apply longstanding current policies on abortion funding and conscience rights to this legislation, all the while claiming that abortions were not being funded.
When it became clearer that congressional leaders would not back down, the bishops’ message to Congress was unambiguous as well. Just before the final vote, the bishops sent one more appeal to Congress that was introduced with a USCCB press release entitled: “Bishops to House of Representatives: Fix Flaws or Vote No on Health Reform Bill.” It stated: “House leadership … won’t even try to address the serious problems on abortion funding… [and are] ignoring conscience protection and fair treatment of immigrants” (www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-051.shtml).
Ignoring the plea of the bishops and the large majority of Americans who oppose abortion funding in health care reform, Congress has now enacted the largest expansion of abortion funding in our nations’ history, since Roe v. Wade. Assurances that abortion funding would be removed and consciences would be thoroughly protected have turned out to be empty promises.
But our efforts are far from over. Now we must go back to all the legislators who stated that the abortion and conscience problems were either not there, or would be fixed at another time, because that time is now! We must fix this “deeply flawed law”, as Cardinal George called it, and we’ll need a strong bi-partisan effort to do so. It will require the active engagement of Catholics and other constituents demanding this congressional response. Correcting this law, so it will truly uphold everyone’s rights to life and health, will take much prayer and hard work, but the stakes have never been higher.
Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.