Catholic Bishops Weigh in Against Abortion Compromise in Health Reform Bill

Attention Ben Nelson: They say the bill is morally unacceptable.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Last-minute efforts to craft a compromise acceptable to Senate healthcare holdout Ben Nelson of Nebraska on the issue of abortion were dealt a blow late Friday when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed in against it. Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and chairman of the conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in a statement that the proposed compromise being pushed by Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey was insufficient to fix the problems in the healthcare legislation currently being debated in the U.S. Senate. The current bill, DiNardo said, would continue to be "morally unacceptable unless and until it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde Amendment."

"Senator Casey's good-faith effort to allow individuals to 'opt out' of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy. Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage," DiNardo said.

Casey's effort to improve the bill, the Catholic clergyman continued, "do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them." DiNardo urged the Senate to include language in the bill that would block federal funds from going to elective abortions and promised continued opposition to the legislation until their concerns were addressed.

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