Monday January 11, 2010

Dodd: Health Bill ‘Hanging by a Thread’; Bishops Fire New Salvo

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 11, 2010 ( – Reflecting on delicate health care negotiations currently underway, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has admitted that the controversial overhaul is “hanging by a thread.”

“Everyone feels, I guess, to some degree who have been for this, that they would have liked something different, and that’s not uncommon when you’re considering an issue of this magnitude,” Dodd told CNBC Monday. “If this is all about surviving politically, then we’re missing the whole purpose of what we’re supposed to be doing,” he added.

Dodd, a top pro-abortion Democrat facing low poll numbers among Connecticut voters, last week abruptly announced that he plans not to run for re-election this year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has instigated another push to apply abortion funding restrictions to the final version of the health care bill.

On Thursday the USCCB issued an updated bulletin insert for parishes across the nation, urging parishioners to lobby for abortion restrictions and conscience protections in the health care bill, and urge opposition to the bill “until and unless these criteria are met.”

“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” states the insert. “Health care reform should not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country.

“Provisions against abortion funding and in favor of conscience protection, affordability, and immigrants’ access to health care must be part of a fair and just health care reform bill, or the final bill must be opposed.”

The bishops also noted that, while the Senate bill posed a clearer threat to the unborn in its lack of Hyde-amendment restrictions, “neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.”

In a letter to legislators January 9, the National Right to Life Committee pointed out the misinformation making the rounds in popular media concerning the abortion restrictions in the House and Senate bill, which the group said were “far more divergent” than the public has been led to believe.

“In reality, the Senate-passed bill contains provisions that would ultimately result in substantial expansions of abortion, driven by federal administrative decrees and federal subsidies,” states the letter.

Pro-abortion advocates continue to campaign against the Stupak language as restricting women’s ability to purchase abortion coverage with private funds – a charge pro-life advocates, together with the fact-checking website, have condemned as false.

In addition to the vast abortion funding opened up by the Senate bill, the NRLC lists several other “acute concerns” with the current health care legislation. While the Senate bill scraps the public insurance option, the group notes that the bill sets up a new federal program under the Office of Personnel Management to administer insurance plans that would likely cover – or even be required to cover – elective abortions.

In general, says the NRLC, “the Senate bill contains a bewildering array of provisions that grant authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other federal entities to issue binding regulations on various matters” – and leaves abortion dangerously open to being deemed a required benefit.

The pro-life organization also released an updated compendium of polling data showing a majority of Americans consistently opposed to government funding of abortion.

Click here for the National Right to Life Committee’s resource for contacting lawmakers (scroll to bottom)