WASHINGTON, D.C., July 26, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – At the height of the contentious debate that surrounded health care reform in 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) nearly brought the negotiations to a halt. The USCCB, which is considered quite liberal in the American sense of the word on the issues of health care and health insurance, refused to give their blessing to what would become ObamaCare because of the legislation’s funding for elective abortions.

ObamaCare appeared doomed. Many Democrats said they couldn’t support a health care bill that didn’t include expanded abortion funding, and but on the other side a dozen pro-life Democrats were refusing to give up on their principles.

It was up to the Catholic Hospital Association (CHA) to save the day. As described by Slate shortly after ObamaCare became law:

In the run-up to passage of the health care bill, representatives of the nearly 60,000 U.S. nuns signed a letter in support of the health care bill, contra the bishops, because, they wrote, supporting better health care is “the real pro-life stance.” From there, the dominoes toppled fast—Bart Stupak, the Catholic pro-life Democrat who'd refused to vote in favor of the bill because of the abortion question, initially dismissed the nuns' letter but then backed down and settled for an executive order on abortion of questionable import and scope. And the bill passed.


And so ObamaCare became law, with the head of the CHA receiving one of 21 presidential pens as it was signed, all because the CHA declared their comfort with the allegedly pro-life provisions of the bill.

Late last month, the CHA swooped in to back the administration again on an issue of life before birth. This time, it was on the HHS contraception/abortifacient/sterilization mandate (HHS mandate):

HHS has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done.

We have prepared this explanation for members to help them understand the accommodation and how to implement it. Throughout this process, CHA has been in dialogue with the leadership of the Bishops' Conference, the Administration and HHS. We are pleased that our members now have an accommodation that will not require them to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage.

The letter acknowledges that the CHA has exclusively focused on its own membership, to the exclusion of consequences of the mandate on others across America.

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In the end, these are the consequences of the CHA’s actions related to federal funding of abortions in the last several years:

  • Despite the Executive Order, and the CHA’s support, in mid-2010 three states – New Mexico, Maryland, and Pennsylvania – tried to use federal funding for “elective abortions,” i.e., abortions not under the Hyde AHHS Mandatemendment, in their states. Those plans were nixed after the National Right to Life Committee “blew the whistle.”
  • Therefore, the CHA’s backing of ObamaCare was de facto support for the funding of abortion, something the bishops and pro-life activists knew even before the law was signed.

So far, the CHA’s arguments that the health care law is pro-life really aren’t holding water. But I digress:

  • Last year, the CHA stood with the bishops against the HHS mandate, pushing for greater First Amendment protections.
  • It took several “compromises,” but the CHA finally backed the administration on the mandate.
  • The final regulations on the HHS mandate still require Americans to provide contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization to other Americans, in violation of the First Amendment. Abortifacients that include Plan B and Ella, both of which induce abortions.
  • Specifically, the president of the USCCB still has concerns about the mandate’s First Amendment violations for business owners.
  • The CHA’s letter of support for the mandate’s exclusion of their members does not touch on the abortifacient portion of the mandate. Does this mean the CHA is now OK with the use of abortifacients?

As an organization proclaiming itself as Catholic, the CHA has a responsibility to stand on the side of life, yet it clearly is unwilling to do so, even though its support for the mandate creates a public split between them and the USCCB. The CHA’s support for the mandate leaves the uneasy suspicion that perhaps the reason the CHA originally stood with the bishops was to provide the Obama administration with political cover. Pat Archbold has outlined similar concerns in recent days:

The White House's continual citing of the CHA reveals the strategy. They intend, in defense of the matter, to contend that the CHA is the competent authority to interpret Church teaching on the mandate. The CHA endorsement, which encompasses the large majority of Catholic health institutions, clearly shows that the Catholic Church is supportive of the mandate. Any remaining objection does not really represent the Church, they will argue.

For now, the CHA proclaims itself to be focused only on its members. But its consistent efforts to work against life with the Obama administration, and in opposition to the leaders of the Catholic Church in America, illustrate that its main political goal right now may be providing cover to the Obama administration on abortion.

Kavon W. Nikrad is a co-author of Taking Turns: Political Stalemate or New Direction in the Race for 2012 and the founder of Race42016.com, a campaign and election site that correctly predicted the presidential results of 48 states in 2012. He was a 2011-2012 Policy Fellow at the prestigious University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and is currently finishing a Master's Degree in Public Affairs at the Humphrey School. He has been published by Roll Call, The Washington Examiner, and USA Today, among other publications.  

A version of this analysis was originally published at The American Thinker.