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Catholics Oppose Latest Congressional Attack on Abortion Rights

January 8, 2014

This morning, the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a hearing on a vehemently antiabortion bill. Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), HR 7, misleadingly named the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” expands current federal policy banning any federal funding for abortion to include any funding, subsidy or tax credit for insurance plans that cover abortion. It particularly affects women living in Washington DC, as all city funding is subject to the rule on federal funding for abortion. HR 7 also includes prohibitions on abortion coverage for people who receive tax credits and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, as well as those who might use federally supported Health Savings Accounts to pay for abortion coverage.

“The bill is an unconscionable attack on the abortion rights of poor women,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “If passed, it will enact into law unreasonable obstacles to safe and legal healthcare for American women—affecting especially lower-income women, families who access healthcare through our nation’s safety net programs and those struggling to make ends meet in these difficult economic times.

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported this bill. We should remember, however, that the bishops’ opposition to all abortion is not reflected in the views of America’s 70 million Catholics. In fact, the bishops’ position—opposing abortion in every instance, even in cases of rape, incest or when an abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s health or life—is rejected by 85 percent of American Catholic voters. Chris Smith is simply a water carrier for the bishops’ antiabortion agenda.”

O’Brien continued, “Research shows that American Catholics support the right of women and men to in good conscience make important reproductive healthcare decisions for themselves. American Catholics want healthcare decisions to be made by patients and their doctors without interference or obstruction from government or religious leaders.

“The bill will create more challenges, hurdles and barriers for the most vulnerable Americans and actually cost American taxpayers more because of the uncompensated healthcare costs that result when people cannot access safe, affordable and reliable healthcare when they need it. This goes against all social justice norms, which are at the heart of our church’s teachings. Chris Smith and his allies at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops need to stop attacking the healthcare needs of poor women.”

Note: When Catholic voters considered healthcare reform in 2009, they supported health insurance coverage (either public or private) for abortion in many circumstances: when a pregnancy poses a threat to the life of a woman (84 percent); when a pregnancy is due to rape or incest (76 percent); when a pregnancy poses long-term health risks for a woman (73 percent); when test results show a fetus has a severe abnormal condition (66 percent); and whenever a women and her doctor decide it is appropriate (50 percent).

Catholics for Choice submitted written testimony to the subcommittee.