By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 11, 2009 ( – While America may need genuine health care reform, the danger that the bills on Capitol Hill already pose to unborn children presents a barrier that “we can never cross,” according to the executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Pro-Life office.

Tom Grenchik wrote a column Friday on the USCCB website that gives a clear account of the pro-life Catholic response to the debate over Obama's health care overhaul: health care reform must not be pushed at the expense of the unborn lives the current bill puts at risk.

“As Congress takes its vacation, various proposals have been left behind,” wrote Grenchik.  “These proposals need to be examined to see how well they provide accessible, affordable and quality health care and how they impact immigrants and the poor.

“But one thing is certain,” he said. “The bills approved so far by House and Senate committees include mandated abortion coverage and abortion funding, and that is a line we can never cross.”

Grenchik said Bishop William Murphy, the Chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, on July 17 already “drew a line” on the limits of health care reform in a letter to Congress July 17.  Even before abortion was specifically mentioned in the health care bills, he noted, Murphy warned lawmakers that “no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”

While some may have been “surprised at this,” Grenchik pointed out, “Those with longer memories may recall that the Medicaid statute doesn't mention abortion either, but it was funding 300,000 abortions a year in the 1970s until we put a stop to that with the Hyde amendment.”

“In any case,” he noted, “numerous amendments to keep abortion out of health care reform have been defeated in committee, and it is now apparent that some leaders have every intention of threatening the health care reform process by forcing Americans to accept abortion mandates and/or fund unlimited abortion in their health coverage.”

Several large Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA, have recently begun pushing for “health care reform” in the abstract, falling in step with President Obama's sudden pressure for health reform. 

The Catholic response to the Capitol Hill health care debate was muddled after the groups issued an “action alert,” complete with a congressional email form, designed to urge lawmakers to pass health care reform “immediately.”  The message included no mention of protecting against the danger of abortion expansion.

Pro-life Catholics responded to the action alert with concern, as Obama's push for reform has largely been decried as a vehicle for expanding abortion .  The groups reaffirmed their commitment to “the dignity of life” and vowed not to specifically support abortion-promoting legislation, but said they would continue to push for health care reform.  The groups did not comment on Obama's current abortion-promoting health care legislation, . 

“While the U.S. bishops support genuine health care reform, there is a clear line in the sand between our bishops and some congressional leaders,” wrote Grenchik.

The USCCB column ends with a call to action urging readers to contact their representatives with a message emphasizing that health care reform “must exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and uphold longstanding laws that restrict abortion funding and protect conscience rights.”

Related Link:

Abortion and the Obama Health-Care Plan: The Essential Facts

See related coverage:

Catholic Organizations' Support for Health Care Reform Follows the Money Trail

Major Catholic Organizations Push for Healthcare Overhaul Despite Abortion Mandate

Obama: “Let's Not Get Distracted” over Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Coverage in Healthcare

Over 36,000 Participate in Webcast to Stop the Abortion Mandate in Obama Healthcare


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