House Passes Health-Care Bill, So What's a Catholic to Do?

After Saturday’s passage in the U.S. House of the health-care reform bill, highlighted by the amendment prohibiting federal funding for abortion, what’s a Catholic to do?

It’s being seen as a victory for pro-life advocates who worked to ban federal funding for abortion in the legislation, but observers wonder whether the bill will retain the amendment as it goes through the Senate. The amendment is named for Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa.

The New York Times has reported that Democrats angry with the amendment hope to strip the bill of the language in the weeks ahead.

“There’s no way at the end of the day we’re going to support these kinds of further restrictions on abortion,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., on C-Span. “We’re going to strategize further about how we’re going to respond to this amendment. Get as many votes as we can against it. But at the end of the day, we want to move the process along.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy, said, “We’re really disappointed” with the pro-life outcome.

“If there’s anything we learned yesterday, it’s that women’s health is being targeted as expendable in health-care reform,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, in a fundraising e-mail. “We also saw that anti-choice forces are working round-the-clock to roll back women’s health benefits.”

Eleanor Smeal, uses quite the rhetoric at the Huffington Post.

“This is an outrageous denial of choice to women, dictated behind the scenes by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and their army of lobbyists,” writes Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and publisher of Ms. magazine.

A “denial… dictated.. [by an] army”?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life secretariat, and other USCCB representatives met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Nov. 6 to reach an agreement on acceptable language prohibiting federal funding for abortion in the bill. That suggests that the U.S. bishops are pleased with the bill that was ultimately passed, but only as long as the Stupak/Pitts amendment remains.

“We do generally support health-care reform … but our focus right now is on supporting the Stupak/Pitts amendment,” said Doerflinger.

Catholics in the pews, it would seem, will need to remain in contact with their legislators and remain vigilant so that the pro-life language remains in the bill being taken up by the Senate.