USCCB Spokesman: “Definitely Not True” that Bishops Support Bill As it Stands

Contradicts Politico report, "Bishops Endorse the Bill"
Sat Nov 7, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

Update (1:30pm EST): Politico Live Pulse has changed its headline to "Bishops Endorse the Amendment."

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 7, 2009 ( - A USCCB spokesman has confirmed that, while the U.S. Bishops have lauded House lawmakers for allowing a vote on the pro-life Stupak amendment, the nascent rumor that this amounts to an endorsement of the bill is false.

This morning, Politico's Live Pulse announced news of the USCCB communication praising the vote on the amendment with the headline "Bishops Endorse the Bill," going on to say that the bishops "delivered a critical endorsement to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi." But (LSN) this morning asked Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the USCCB's pro-life secretariat, whether it was accurate to say that the bishops support the health care bill.

"Not without the Stupak amendment," Doerflinger stated.  However, if the Stupak amendment passes, he added, it would eliminate "our most serious moral problem with the bill."

"We do generally support health care reform ... but our focus right now is on supporting the Stupak/Pitts amendment," he said.  "We certainly don't [support the bill] now, because the Stupak amendment is absent. 

"I did hear a rumor that I was quashing that we support the bill with or without, and that is definitely not true."

The opinion of the USCCB, which represents about 300 active Catholic bishops in the United States, has been closely watched as a primary litmus test for lawmakers conscientious of pro-life values amid Capitol Hill's health care wrangling.  Following eleventh-hour discussions with legislators on the abortion vote, Cardinal Justin Rigali of the USCCB's Pro-Life Secretariat issued a letter to lawmakers confirming that, "Passing this amendment allows the House to meet our criteria of preserving the existing protections against abortion funding in the new legislation."

"The Conference will remain vigilant and involved through this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation," says the letter. 

The Stupak/Pitts amendment, recently approved for a floor vote scheduled for today in a surprise move by the House Rules Committee, would restore long-standing federal policy on abortion in the bill by banning using government-appropriated funds for elective abortions.

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