Catholics Face Moral Crisis between Healthcare Reform and Abortion
Newscom: Attendees listened during a healthcare; public- policy forum held Beach; Calif;, The Christian Science Monitor
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
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. …