Catholics Face Moral Crisis between Healthcare Reform and Abortion

Article excerpt

Catholics have long supported healthcare reform. But many now worry that it might compromise existing restrictions on federal funding of abortions, leaving them with a tough choice.

The healthcare reform debate could soon bring many Roman Catholics to

a wrenching moral dilemma: Should they support a bill that expands

healthcare to the poor, even if it involves so many uncertainties

surrounding access to abortion?

For months, bishops have made their guidance plain: If the final

bill weakens a ban on public funding for abortion, then Catholics

should oppose it. But they are finding many of their antiabortion

adherents willing to embrace what they see as a greater good -

improving access to healthcare - even if it undercuts the

church's stand against abortion.

For Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, a

50,000-member lay movement that pushes for public policy to reflect

Catholic social teachings, Catholics must have open minds: "The

wrong thing would be for anyone to be so firmly entrenched in their

positions on federal funding of abortion that they're not willing

to come to the table and talk about a compromise."

Healthcare reform is a historic opportunity, adds Victoria Kovari,

interim president of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a

45,000-member advocacy group informed by Catholic social teachings.

"We share all the bishops' concerns," she says. "The

difference is [our] feeling that we would be morally remiss if we

walked away from all of healthcare [reform]. We have to take

seriously our call to be about what's good for the whole human

family."

Strong support of healthcare reform

During the past decade, Catholics have overwhelmingly supported a

government guarantee of healthcare access for all citizens -

regardless of cost. More than 70 percent of US Catholics supported

such a guarantee in 2002 and again in 2006, according to the Center

for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown

University in Washington.

Catholic opinions on abortion rights have been more evenly divided.

But opposition to abortion rights has been growing, and certain types

of Catholics - such as minorities who struggle to pay for medical

services - are likely to be especially conflicted about the tension

between healthcare and abortion, says John Green, a political

scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio who studies religious

dynamics in politics.

The issue is contentious in congressional debates, too. The question

is not whether tax dollars ought to directly fund abortion; most

lawmakers and President Obama agree they should not. Rather, the

question is how to limit public money for insurers who cover

abortions while still guaranteeing access to the procedure.

When the House passed its version of a healthcare reform bill in

November, it included an amendment that explicitly bans federal

funding of abortions through the new insurance exchanges created by

the law. …

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