Catholics United (CU) has launched a campaign to promote health care reform and encourage Catholics to support it with the full force of a united Catholic voice. It’s called Catholics for Health Care Reform. CU cites the achievements of the USCCB and Congressman Stupak in getting safeguards for the unborn in the bill that passed the House (the one now in the Senate). They are calling upon all Catholics to join the campaign.
After a closer look at this group, pro-life Catholics proceed with caution. This is the same group that gave their support to Candidate Obama, Speaker Pelosi, HHS Secretary Sebelius and other left-leaning pro-abortion Democrats. This group, according to Catholic News Agency (CNA), “supported the president’s health care bill even when the U.S. bishops were opposing it, before the Stupak Amendment passed in the House.”
So, what is this group saying on the subject of health care reform? Why should we be cautious about joining their campaign?
Catholics United wants to muddy the waters. They want as many Catholics as possible to think that supporting this reform is synonymous with supporting our bishops and adhering to the Catholic faith. Their effort is working. Even the LA Times got it wrong when they attributed a CU quote to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Kim Geiger, a reporter at the LA Times wrote:
The [Stupak Amendment] won immediate support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which urged Catholics to ‘lend their full-throated support’ to the Democrat’s healthcare bill.
Trouble is, the USCCB did not make this statement. It was made by the CU Executive Director Chris Korzen, but the LA Times incorrectly attributed these words to our bishops. The mistake has been corrected, but how many readers were misled before the LA Times set the record straight?
Cardinal Francis George noted that the bishops were thankful “the Representatives honored President Obama’s commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates.” In addition, Cardinal George warned that “the Conference will remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation” (full statement at the USCCB website).
While CU wants Catholics to believe it is a moral imperative to back reform with “full-throated support,” Cardinal Francis George has made it clear that:
[The bishops] remain deeply concerned about other aspects of health care reform as the debate now moves to the Senate, especially as it affects the poor and vulnerable, and those at the beginning and end of life. We will continue to insist that health care reform legislation must protect conscience rights. We support measures to make health care more affordable for low-income people and the uninsured. We remain deeply concerned that immigrants be treated fairly and not lose the health care coverage that they now have.
According to their website, CU wants Catholics to lend their full support to a bill that is still in transition. Nobody can be sure what the bill will look like when it emerges from the Senate. We can rejoice that the House version did contain some strong safeguards for the unborn, thanks to the USCCB and Congressman Stupak. But it is premature for Catholics to give their blessing to any legislation before it is clear what the bill will look like in the end.
One article on the CU website for heath care reform criticizes pro-life Catholics who were adamant on the Stupak up/down vote. CU wants to know why those who were so vocal in their support of the Stupak Amendment would be silent now that it has passed:
Nonetheless, some Republican-affiliated groups who claim a Catholic orientation – including the American Life League — have broken with the Bishops’ Conference by opposing the legislation. Others, like the Catholic League and Family Research Council, remained silent Saturday after attacking the legislation for months.
While CU is wondering why pro-life Catholics are silent now that the Stupak Amendment has passed, pro-life Catholics are wondering why the CU was so quiet with regard to the Stupak Amendment, before it was clear Speaker Pelosi would permit a vote on it. Where was the outcry from CU when the USCCB was working diligently to get those provisions and safeguards in the bill? And why was CU adamant in their support of the bill before these safeguards were established through the Stupak Amendment?
And now, Catholics United wants all Catholics to throw their support behind the health care bill — with “full-throated support” for reform. Let’s see why it would be a serious mistake for Catholics to do this.
First, the USCCB has not even done what the CU wants all Catholics to do. We cannot give blind support to a bill that is still in transition. The USCCB is thankful that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was added to the House bill, but the bishops know that the Senate can change all that -– and in fact the White House has given assurances to pro-abortion factions that it will be pushing to make that change. It is still too early to give our blessing to the bill.
If we truly want a just reform of our health care system, then we must do full and thorough research to uncover what the final bill contains — or does not contain. People like Peter J. Smith and Kathleen Gilbert are working hard to uncover some of the troubling aspects that remain in the bill. At LifeSiteNews.com, Smith and Gilbert have listed a number of problems that still exist with the bill. Many others are working hard to keep up with the changes the Senate makes to the bill. Some of these concerns are summarized below. It is not an exhaustive list.
Will the final bill protect life from conception to natural death?
- Will seniors be subjected to rationed care in an effort to keep costs down? Will this new plan cover services for the gravely ill to the same degree that private sector insurance does?
- Will reform protect the unborn? What happens if the Stupak Amendment is omitted from the Senate version? Will Congress force the bill to a vote even then? Will the CU continue to support reform if that happens?
- Will this bill cover artificial contraception and abortifiacient drugs? Will it fund public school programs that encourage school staff to counsel girls to seek the “help” of “reproductive specialists” like Planned Parenthood?
- Will this bill cover other reproductive services that are not specified in the Stupak Amendment – services like IVF and other infertility services? According to a Q&A at the Center for Reproductive Medicine(CRM), this is anybody’s guess. Sean Tipton, spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine believes that infertility may be covered under the new reform bill. He believes that Congress will probably leave out specific wording on the things they want covered the most (like abortion, contraception, and IVF). They will not name these things, but rather leave such reproductive matters to the discretion of the HHS Secretary.
Will this bill help or hurt health care workers?
- Will there be sufficient conscience protection for doctors and medical professionals?
- While there are some safeguards in place, what will happen to doctors, pharmacists and hospitals who are morally opposed to prescribing and dispensing contraceptives?If the Stupak Amendment is omitted from the Senate bill, what will happen to doctors and facilities who are morally opposed to providing this service?
- Will this bill curb unnecessary litigation? If not, how can the bill claim to bring true reform and justice for all?
Does this bill provide access for immigrants?
- Our bishops are concerned because the bill, as it stands, does not address their concerns for immigrants.
Without a doubt, we do have a segment of the population that needs our help. There are those who stand to lose insurance coverage if they lose their jobs or they are diagnosed with an illness that becomes a “pre-existing disease” and renders them uninsurable. There are others who need insurance but who are unable to obtain it through their employers. While we must work to help them, we cannot lose the soul of our nation in the process. Many worry about the cost of this bill, fearing that we will go bankrupt if it passes. That’s not a light concern, but it’s even worse if our nation goes morally bankrupt.
We must renew our efforts to protect the unborn, to ensure conscience protection for medical workers, and to establish coverage for immigrants and safeguard against any reduction in the services for the elderly and seriously infirm. Giving our full support to the bill at this point in the process is a lot like agreeing to sign a contract before it is written.
Let us continue to watch and pray. We need to hold our politicians’ feet to the fire and take seriously what the Church teaches about life and law. In short, we have to take seriously our moral obligation to be informed and prudent citizens in assessing the full range of consequences this bill could have.