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Catholic and pro-life leaders see signs that the latest approach to get a health-care reform bill passed could expand public funding for abortion even beyond previous versions.
BY RICH DALYREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
— Catholic and pro-life leaders see signs that the latest approach to
health-care reform legislation could expand public funding for abortion even
beyond previous versions of health reform.
question took on even greater urgency after President Obama called on Congress
March 3 to schedule a final vote on the legislation “in the next few weeks.”
Obama pushed for a vote based on a “simple majority,” which would mean 51 votes
in the Senate, rather than the supermajority of 60 that is needed to halt a
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and pro-life groups are carefully
tracking developments on the health-care overhaul.
are a number of rank-and-file Democrats worried that they could lose their
seats if they vote for this bill,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director
of pro-life activities at the USCCB.
the weeks since the Massachusetts special election that brought Republican Sen.
Scott Brown to Washington, President Obama has sought to restart the drive for
a comprehensive health-care law by introducing his own $950 billion proposal
and holding a Feb. 25 bipartisan summit to discuss various health-reform
Obama proposal closely mirrors the Senate-passed bill, which Catholic and
pro-life groups roundly criticized for allowing federal tax dollars to
subsidize insurance plans that cover elective abortions and allowing federal
agencies to require that all private insurance plans cover abortion as
the Obama approach could go even further than the permissive Senate bill by
providing $11 billion for community health centers, some of which could use
that funding to directly cover abortions they provide, according to pro-life
president’s proposal is the most pro-abortion of the health-care proposals to
date,” said Matthew Faraci, a spokesman for Americans United for Life.
The bill also lacks many of the
conscience protections that would keep Catholic health-care workers from having
to participate in abortion or other unethical procedures, noted Doerflinger.
was notable that Obama chose the abortion and conscience-language approach of
the Senate-passed health bill over the House-passed bill language, which
included strong pro-life protections sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.
pro-abortion language could undermine the legislative chances of the final
health bill because Stupak and up to 12 other pro-life Democrats who supported
the House-passed bill would oppose a final bill without abortion-funding
restrictions. They could be joined by liberal Democrats who are upset that the
final bill does not offer a so-called public option, according to health-care
Democratic defections would doom the health-care bill in the face of unified
Republican opposition because the earlier version passed the House by only a
third group of Democrats that may move en masse against the bill are members of
the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Caucus, according to lobbyists. Many of
these Democrats are from conservative districts and particularly sensitive to
the decrease in public support for any health-care bill.
leaders and other supporters of the health-care bill have focused on swinging
public sentiment back in favor of the overhaul, in order to bolster nervous
moderate Democrats in the House.
legislative procedure is going to work until the public is shown that this is not
the horrible bill that they have been led to believe,” said David Kendall,
senior fellow for health policy at Third Way, a group that has supported the
Democratic health-care bills.
of the health bills may have a large task in re-winning the public to their
side. A February CNN poll echoed many others when it reported that only 25% of
Americans supported enactment of a health-care bill similar to the one already
passed by the House and Senate. Abortion opponents also point out to swing district
Democrats that there is wide public opposition to public funding of elective
December Quinnipiac University poll found 72% oppose the use of taxpayer funds
to pay for abortions under any health-care reform effort.
focusing on reaching out to members of the House and encouraging them to
continue to stand for life,” Faraci said.
Democratic leaders are unable to garner enough support for the Obama measure,
then a piecemeal approach that advances individual pieces of a health-care overhaul
separately is also possible, according to health-care experts.
a limited approach will not come until Obama and congressional Democrats have
exhausted all efforts to enact a comprehensive package, if only because they
have already invested so much time and prestige on the effort.
polling is rather against doing anything on this scale right now,” Doerflinger
said. Democratic leaders “are in a difficult bind.”
Rich Daly writes
A version of this article appeared March 1 at