by Phil Lawler
President Obama’s crusade to enact health-care reform legislation is nearing its climactic battle in the US Senate. How should Catholic Americans look upon this legislative struggle?
The US bishops have consistently voiced their support for health-care reform, while insisting that the legislation must include some language ensuring against public support for abortion. In the House of Representatives their lobbying had its desired effect, and the “Stupak Amendment” gave the bishops a bill they could support. In the Senate a pro-life amendment was rejected. Still the US bishops’ conference has clung to the bare hope that some acceptable language might be inserted, somewhere during the remaining steps of the legislative process.
As a matter of practical politics, I think the bishops’ hopes are unrealistic. The Senate vote against the pro-life language was decisive. If the Senate passes a bill without a pro-life amendment, a joint committee will iron out the differences between that legislation and the version passed by the House. That reconciliation process will be dominated by the Democratic majority leadership, which is wholeheartedly committed to abortion coverage. Thus if a health-care reform bill is passed in this Congressional session, it will almost certainly include subsidies for abortion.
But just for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the final legislation includes a solid pro-life amendment. Should Catholics then give their legislation their wholehearted support?
Absolutely not, for four reasons.
First, even if it doesn’t subsidize abortion this year, the federal health-care program will subsidize abortion in the future. All it takes is one act of Congress to amend the bill, one federal judge to rule that a ban on abortion funding is discriminatory, or one bureaucrat to rule that abortion is a “preventive” medical procedure, and the subsidies will snap quickly into place. Pro-life forces have battled valiantly to stave off the public funding of abortion this year, but as long as the federal government controls the health-care market, the battle will be fought repeatedly—month after month, year after year, legal case after case—until the left reaches its goal, and locks in the funding.
Second, abortion isn’t the only moral issue. The main focus of public attention has been the potential subsidies for abortion. But the legislation would also ensure federal subsidies for contraception and sterilization. American citizens could soon find themselves paying for in vitro fertilization treatments and sex-reassignment surgeries, if doctors and their federal overseers certified that these procedures were necessary.
He who pays the piper calls the tune, and if the federal government pays for health-care treatment, the White House ultimately will set the standards to determine which procedures warrant support. We already know where President Obama stands on embryonic stem-cell research, and we can easily predict how he will respond to the use of medicines obtained from human embryos in the treatment of diseases. Such medicines (if any ever appear) will receive federal subsidies. On the other hand, efforts to provide rudimentary medical care (as opposed to extraordinary treatment) for comatose patients will be stifled. So at both beginning and end of human life, the financial pressures will be adverse to the cause of human dignity... Read the whole article.
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- ► 2010 (54)
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- ▼ December 2009 (21)
- Fr. Christopher George Phillips
- Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.