By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., Novmeber 11, 2009 ( – After the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) appeared to express satisfaction with the House's amended health care bill, one pro-life group has responded saying that the bishops' response ignores the other dangers the bill still presents to pro-life values.

The USCCB has taken center stage in the national health care debate this week after its pro-life position greatly impacted the late stages of the House health care bill's journey.  Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's determination to pass the measure prompted her to seek the bishops' stamp of approval, in order to sway pro-life Democrats to accept the authenticity of the Stupak pro-life amendment.

Pelosi was reportedly not the only proactive member in the exchange.  A Politico report claims that, while some GOP lawmakers considered voting “present” on the Stupak amendment to kill the bill, Cardinal George contacted House Minority Leader John Boehner to ensure no such foul play on that vote.

Following the passage of the amended bill, Cardinal George on November 9 issued a statement on behalf of the USCCB hailing the passage of legislation “to provide adequate and affordable health care to all.  The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long advocated that adequate health care be made available to everyone.”

He called the Stupak amendment's success “an essential step” that “honored President Obama's commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates.”

“The Conference will remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation,” he said.

While noting that the bishops “do not claim or present ourselves as experts on health care policy” and “are not prepared to assess every provision of legislation as complex as this proposal,” said George, “health care legislation … is about human beings and hence has serious moral dimensions.”

Because of the role Catholic Church-sponsored health care plays in picking up “the pieces of our failing system,” he said, “we believe our nation's health care system needs reform which protects human life and dignity and serves the poor and vulnerable as a moral imperative and an urgent national priority.” 

The cardinal noted that the bishops “remain deeply concerned” over the health care debate as it affects “the beginning and end of life” as well as conscience rights.

Prior to the bill's passage, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops' pro-life office, told the Washington Post that if the Stupak amendment passed, “we become enthusiastic advocates for moving forward with  health care reform.”

The American Life League, however, took issue with the USCCB's approach to the bill.

While the Stupak amendment removed the threat of federal abortion funding, the group noted that the bill remains a serious concern to pro-life and social conservatives.  Leaders have pointed out concerns including: a rationing of health care; a lack of broad conscience protections; an insurance purchase mandate under threat of fine or imprisonment; and a loophole whereby assisted suicide could be encouraged.

“As the health care debate moves into the Senate, the pro-life movement must repudiate the half measures currently being touted as victory in some pro-life circles,” said Judie Brown, president of American Life League. “Far too many vulnerable human beings' lives hang in the balance, not to mention the credibility and integrity of the entire pro-life effort.”

See related coverage:

Pro-Life Amendment Seen as Historic Victory Overshadowed by Dangers of Health Bill Passage 

List of Pro-Life Leader Reactions to Health Bill Outcome: Caution Outweighs Celebration