In the News 2010
Agence France Presse

Hands off Health Care, US Catholic Group Tells Bishops


A US Catholic group on Friday accused Roman Catholic bishops of meddling in health care reforms by making backroom deals to ensure the bill does not allow funding for abortion.

“Religious and ethical concerns can legitimately inform public policy, but the bishops have overstepped the mark,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice.

“Interference by the US Catholic bishops in health care reform does not help women. The bishops should not be allowed to use health care reform to restrict women’s access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare services,” he said.

In November, said O’Brien, US Catholic bishops made a “last-minute backroom power play with Representative Bart Stupak” which “derailed meaningful health care reform.”

Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, voted for the House of Representatives version of the health care bill last year only after inserting tough language forbidding federal subsidies from going to health plans that offer abortion.

The Senate later passed a bill that did not contain the same language and was working with the House to meld the two bills into one when the Democratic party lost its 60-seat Senate super-majority in January, putting health care reforms on hold.

This week, President Barack Obama announced a final push to pass the bill under a process expected to use the Senate bill, with some modifications, as the baseline legislation.

Stupak said Thursday he and roughly a dozen Democratic allies would block the sweeping legislation if their demands to block funding for abortion are not met.

A survey conducted for Catholics for Choice last year showed that 68 percent of US Catholic voters rejected the argument being made by some bishops that Catholics are obliged to oppose health care reform legislation that allows abortion coverage.

A majority of Catholics surveyed — 56 percent — said they thought the bishops should not take a position on healthcare reform at all.

This article originally appeared in Agence France-Presse.

Catholics for Choice