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Catholics and HR 3

February 8, 2011

Today’s congressional hearing on HR 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” is notable for many reasons. The proposed legislation would enact unreasonable obstacles to reproductive healthcare for millions of American women. It would grant a right to refuse to provide abortion or contraception to insurance companies, HMOs and hospitals based on a specious claim that these entities have a “conscience.” It would increase healthcare costs for people who want to retain abortion coverage in their insurance plans.

The hearing is also notable for the not-too-subtle but nonetheless false message that Catholics support this legislation. HR 3 cosponsors, Reps. Smith and Lipinski, are Catholics. All of the “experts” testifying in support of HR 3 are current or former employees of the pro-life office at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. And the USCCB has written to all members of Congress urging support of the bill. No doubt the bishops’ conference lobbyists are working overtime as well. Surely the healthcare reform debate was not so long ago that any of us have forgotten that the bishops’ influence over some members of Congress is strong enough to outweigh those members’ responsibility to represent their constituencies, Catholic and non-Catholic alike?

Catholics for Choice is making sure that members of Congress know that Catholics do not support HR 3. We sent a letter last week providing the facts about Catholic support for women’s reproductive healthcare and its accessibility in any hospital, clinic or program that receives government funding. You can read that letter on our website. We’ll be at the hearing later today and working with members of Congress to ensure that there is no mistake about where Catholics stand on this issue. We stand with women.

We have also written to Congress about the broader legislative agenda the bishops’ conference is promoting this year—and speaking for the millions of American Catholics who disagree with it. That letter is also available on our website. Once again, the bishops are endorsing public policies aimed at restricting, even eliminating, access to reproductive health services in this country—from contraception to abortion to sexuality education. Almost no one supports this approach, least of all American Catholics. Members of Congress remarked in 2009 about the commitment of time and resources the bishops were willing to devote to lobbying with a single goal—to ensure that abortion is unavailable for women in this country. We expect that 2011 will see more of the same. Catholics for Choice will be there to make sure that the bishops’ voices are not the only Catholic voices they hear.