WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Senate began to enter apparent closing stages of developing its version of national health care reform, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made new pleas to give legal immigrants more access to health care and to continue barring any federal funding of elective abortions.
WASHINGTON – In a 54-45 vote the U.S. Senate Dec. 8 rejected a health care reform amendment that would have clearly ruled out abortion coverage in any publicly funded or subsidized health insurance plan.
Late in the day Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., announced that a team of 10 Senate Democrats had put together a tentative agreement that might break the chamber's deadlock over including a government-run insurance plan as part of the reform.
WASHINGTON – Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., set the stage for a quick Senate showdown on federal abortion funding in health care reform Dec. 7 by introducing an amendment -- which quickly drew support from the U.S. Catholic bishops -- that would more clearly restrict the use of any public funds for abortion in the reform bill before the Senate.
There were early indications his amendment would be voted on as soon as today, Dec. 8.
The U.S. Catholic bishops quickly expressed support for the amendment and urged senators to adopt it “to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding that includes elective abortions.”
Co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Robert Casey, D-Pa., and six other Republican senators the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment would require the Senate version of comprehensive health care reform to retain the same prohibition on federal funding of elective abortions enshrined in U.S. law since 1976 by the Hyde amendment, which governs all other federal health care programs.
Though Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy may be the one facing a spiritual sanction in his recent standoff with Providence’s Bishop Thomas Tobin, some Catholics inside the Beltway are quietly worried that it could be the pro-life cause that pays the most immediate political price.
With a critical debate on health care reform underway in the Senate, in which funding for abortion is a central bone of contention, these observers say moderate Democrats now face another incentive to think twice about bucking their party’s official pro-choice stance: fear of appearing to cave in to pressure tactics from Catholic bishops.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Archdiocese said it was confident a civil court would rule in its favor over a determination by a city tax appeals board that the archdiocese owes millions of dollars in unpaid property transfer taxes.
tIn a unanimous ruling Nov. 30, San Francisco's Transfer Tax Appeals Board said the archdiocese must pay property transfer taxes for moving church properties from one nonprofit entity to another. According to the board, the archdiocese owes $14.4 million.
The debate, passage, and outcry over the House health care reform bill demonstrates the staying power of a movement which propelled Barack Obama to the presidency: the rise of independents who refuse to be defined by either party.(They make up 42 percent of the electorate, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, up from 31 percent only a year ago). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scrambling of the traditional ideological boundaries on the emotional issue of abortion.
Supposedly, the Democratic party is the one which protects the dignity of women’s reproductive health; but in a stunning move that was seen by abortion-rights groups as a radical betrayal of this charge, 64 democrats voted for, and ensured passage of, an anti-abortion amendment to the House reform bill which Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado called “the greatest restriction of a woman’s right to choose to pass in our careers.”
This Thanksgiving comes one week after the United States bishops released a document that, among other things, condemned same-gender marriage and three weeks after the bishops helped defeat marriage equality in Maine. Friends often ask how I remain Catholic. I respond that there are millions of reasons that I am thankful to be a Catholic—and not a Catholic bishop.
On Nov. 3, Maine suffered a profound setback in its march towards marriage equality for its state’s citizens. The loss came after Maine’s Catholic diocese waged a lengthy and costly battle against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to have the same legal protections as heterosexual couples. The state’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices has since revealed that the Diocese spent $553,608.27 on the campaign. Nearly half of the funds came not from anti-gay parishioners in Maine, but from anti-gay Catholic bishops around the country. (See the NCR story here.)
Gathering money from 50 U.S. dioceses, the Portland, Maine, diocese contributed more than $550,000 to the campaign to rejected Maine's law extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples, according to financial records filed with the state agency that tracks political contributions.
In the Nov. 3 referendum, Maine voters rejected 53 to 47 percent the same-sex marriage law.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regards health care reform as “a moral imperative and an urgent national priority,” John Carr, the bishops' executive director of Justice, Peace and Social Development, said in a media teleconference Nov. 23.
But he said the bishops cannot back a reform that expands federal funding of abortion or fails to protect consciences of health care workers and institutions on key issues of medical ethics. Other criteria for the bishops’ support are whether the bill makes health insurance generally affordable and spreads costs equitably, and the degree to which it meets the church goal of universal coverage, including coverage for immigrants, he said.
The night before the Nov. 7 final vote on health care reform in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was shuttling between gatherings of pro-choice legislators and antiabortion forces, the latter including officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the end, according to numerous reports, it was the pro-choice group that spurned all efforts at compromise. Pelosi was forced to abandon her pro-choice allies to allow a vote on the amendment advanced by Congressman Bart Stupak, a moderate Democrat from upstate Michigan. As the health reform effort heads now to the Senate, the Catholic church, both its hierarchy and laity, stands in the center of the debate. On the line is not only the long-elusive goal of universal health coverage but also President Obama’s effort to reach out to moderate Catholic voters.