Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bishops Gain an Ear on Capitol Hill

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bishops Gain an Ear on Capitol Hill

Article excerpt

At long last, much needed U.S. health care reform came a step closer to realization Nov. 7 when the House of Representatives approved a bill containing the most sweeping changes in more than four decades.

The measure addresses many of the inadequacies that have long plagued the health care system. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, often an uncompromising exponent of the most liberal Democratic positions, proved the ultimate pragmatist as the issue headed to a vote. In order to make it work, she turned her back on the unyielding pro-choice lobby and inserted an amendment, advanced by Catholic U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, that reinforces an existing ban on the use of federal money for the procurement of abortions.

The Stupak Amendment articulated a position that the Catholic bishops had rightly and forcefully advanced in the run-up to the final vote. Some argue that the bishops crossed state-church lines, but all the reporting showed that prochoice advocates had equal access to the process and the legislators. While we have argued with the bishops' singleissue political strategy in the past, this was a case in which they were doing what religious leaders should do--speaking forcefully to those with power about an issue on which they have strong convictions.

In the give-and-take world of politics, the compromise this time went their way.

The hope is that the bishops, having won a restriction on abortion, will argue as forcefully and expend the same energy in rallying the Catholic community to push for approval of a similar bill in the Senate. …

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