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Politics

Abortion still major issue facing US health care reform

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WASHINGTON -- Senate-House divide over abortion is one of the key obstacles still to be overcome if the United States is to take its next major step toward reforming its health care system.

Health care reform was far from a done deal as 2009 drew to a close. If it passes, it stands to rank with the 20th century’s legislation on child labor, minimum wage, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid among the major socioeconomic changes in federal support for and protection of the nation’s lower and middle classes.

'No disagreement' between Catholic hospitals, bishops

WASHINGTON -- Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, the Catholic Health Association and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are working together to achieve health reform legislation that does not expand federal funding of abortion, according to the CHA president and CEO.

Sr. Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Dec. 28 that her organization has never wavered in its commitment to health care that protects "from conception to natural death," as outlined in the CHA document, "Our Vision for U.S. Health Care."

To pass, health reform needs House Catholic Democrats

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Analysis

As the U.S. Senate moved toward a Christmas Eve vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- apparently with the 60 senators on board that are needed to block a Republican filibuster and pass the bill -- I was again struck by the key role that 31 Catholic Democrats in the House have played so far and are likely to play in the final outcome of the legislation.

Those are the 31 who backed language forbidding federal funding of abortion in the health care reform and then voted for the entire reform package -- in both cases as key votes for passage.

Bishops: Senate health bill remains 'deficient'

WASHINGTON -- The Senate should not approve its current health reform bill "without incorporating essential changes to ensure" that it "truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all," the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

In a letter sent late Dec. 22, about 36 hours before the expected Senate vote Christmas Eve morning, the USCCB urged opposition to the Senate bill and pledged continued efforts to incorporate needed changes during the work of the House-Senate conference committee.

In politics, hierarchy applies selective blackmail

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Commentary

The Catholic bishops in the United States for years now have been crossing into political waters for the distinct purpose of outing high-profile Democratic politicians who don’t vote the way the bishops want on the abortion issue. It is fascinating that in recent memory the Catholic hierarchy has never spoken out against any Republican. Could it be that the only political sinners are Democrats and that the only political sin is favoring a political strategy of upholding the law regarding the right to abortion while seeking policies aimed at reducing the number of abortions?

Pro-life Catholic Democrats key in health reform

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ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON -- Whatever the outcome of the nation’s debate over health care reform, one of the biggest byproducts is the emergence of a relatively small group of pro-life Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives as key figures in the nation’s moral and political debate.

The Senate continues to have a pro-choice majority and nearly all Catholic senators tend to follow their party’s position — pro-choice if you’re a Democrat, antiabortion if you’re a Republican.

But things have gradually changed in the House, and now about three dozen Catholic pro-life Democrats carry a key swing vote if they decide to challenge the party line on abortion issues.

In the vote Nov. 7 on an amendment introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., to prohibit federal funding of elective abortions in the health care reform bill, a disproportionate 36 of the 64 Democrats who voted for the amendment — 56 percent — were Catholic. Less than 40 percent of the total Democratic House membership is Catholic.

Bishops oppose Senate health reform bill

WASHINGTON -- Although authentic reform of the nation's health system is "a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority," the Senate version of health reform legislation "should not move forward in its current form," the heads of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Dec. 19.

The comments came after the introduction of a 383-page manager's amendment incorporating some aspects of an amendment proposed by Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., to improve the bill on the issues of abortion and conscience rights.

Senate rejects health reform abortion restriction

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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.

Stage set for Senate abortion showdown on health reform

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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.

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