Abortion Debate Could Make or Break Healthcare Reform

Catholics hold a lot of power in the healthcare debate.

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Even with such changes, the bishops may object to the Democratic healthcare plan if it subsidizes private plans that include abortion coverage for lower-income workers. The bishops want those plans to offer a separate rider for workers who want abortion coverage. But abortion rights supporters will most likely object on the grounds that such a rider threatens to roll back abortion coverage for women who already have health insurance that covers the procedure.

Of course, Democrats may wind up passing a plan with controversial abortion provisions over objections from the bishops and other Catholics. That would have political costs. "Moderate Catholics are big constituencies in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio," says Schneck. But opposing the final healthcare reform plan on abortion grounds could have political consequences for the church, too. As middle-class whites leave Catholicism and are replaced by immigrants, working-class concerns like health insurance are more important than ever to the church's American flock.

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