Magazine article Church & State

Catholic Bishops Win Anti-Abortion Provision in Health-Care Bill

Magazine article Church & State

Catholic Bishops Win Anti-Abortion Provision in Health-Care Bill

Article excerpt

The congressional debate over health-care reform took an unexpected detour into the contentious issue of abortion policy last month after an aggressive lobbying campaign by the leadership of the Catholic Church.

On Nov. 7, the House of Representatives voted narrowly to approve a bill extending health-care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. During negotiations over the bill, a band of anti-abortion representatives insisted that a provision favored by the Catholic bishops be included.

The provision, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), mandates that low-income women who receive tax credits to buy health insurance not be permitted to enroll in any plan that covers abortion. Critics say it goes far beyond measures in other bills that bar direct tax funding to support abortion. The net effect of this language, many analysts believe, will be to force insurance providers to drop abortion coverage.

National Public Radio reported that lobbyists for the Catholic bishops aggressively worked both sides of the political aisle in a bid to bring the bill into conformity with church doctrine. In addition, Catholic priests across the nation were ordered to sermonize about the issue during weekly services.

It was widely reported that Stupak met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and insisted the anti-abortion language be included as the price of passing the bill.

Abortion-rights opponents were blindsided.

"The Catholic bishops came in at the last minute and drew a line in the sand," Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood, told The Wall Street Journal. …

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