Legislative attempts in the health overhaul process to ensure that federal funding is not used for abortions has only succeeded in dividing the very House Democrats needed to pass that bill. And Catholic groups are facing the same divide.
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Cardinal Francis George and his group, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, did not give their blessing to the abortion language in the Senate health care bill the House will vote on this week.
Cardinal Francis George and his group, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, did not give their blessing to the abortion language in the Senate health care bill the House will vote on this week. Scott Olson/Getty Images
This weekend the Catholic Health Association, a group that represents several hundred Catholic hospitals, came out in support of the less-restrictive Senate version of abortion language. This is key because the House must pass the Senate bill to move the process forward at this point.
And Catholics United has been calling on Catholics to lobby the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to support the Senate language. But it seems that even the 5,000 Catholics who e-mailed the bishops in the last 72 hours have not swayed them. The bishops said Monday they oppose the whole Senate bill because of the abortion language.
The President of the Conference, Cardinal Francis George , said promises that abortion language could be tweaked in future bills was like "asking us, in Midwestern parlance, to buy a pig in a poke."
Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. who identifies herself as a Catholic, recently put the kibosh on the issue of future tweaks, it doesn't mean she's stopped talking about it. At a news conference yesterday, Pelosi confirmed that the bill is "a bill about health care, health insurance reform. It's not about abortion," according to the New York Times. And like the Catholic Health Association, she believes that the Senate abortion language is enough to keep federal money from funding abortions. "If you believe that ... the law of the land is no federal funding for abortion, there's none in this bill."
Pelosi's argument and some Catholic support might be enough for some Congressmen to support the bill even if they supported the more restrictive House abortion language in the past. Minnesota Democrat Jim Oberstar's been moved.
Though the fight for the right balance of votes will continue: Three House Democrats who originally supported the House bill, which contained more restrictive language, have reported they will not vote for a bill without it, according to Politico.
Maggie Mertens is a reporter at Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service.