Divisions Within Pro-Life Groups On Overhaul Ease Opposition
A previously steadfast coalition opposed to abortion which feared that the health overhaul could divert federal money to support the procedure is beginning to crack, The Christian Science Monitor reports. "Increasingly, abortion foes including high-profile Catholic organizations and members of Congress are saying that while the language aimed at preventing use of federal funds for abortion is not perfect, the bill is still worth passing as a first step." The Catholic Health Association, 60 prominent American nuns, and several Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Charlie Wilson of Ohio and Dale Kildee of Michigan, broke ranks with abortion-opponents to support the bill. But opponents of abortion rights "have been running ads" in districts of key members and have not given up the fight. "Despite signs that Obama's campaign to pass reform has momentum, [Americans United for Life Action] president Charmaine Yoest says she still doesn't see how House speaker Nancy Pelosi gets the 216 votes she needs to pass the bill" (Feldmann, 3/18).
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops still opposes the legislation because of the bishops' opposition to abortion rights, The Washington Post reports in its On Faith column. But, the "willingness of the nuns, including Sister Carol Cohen, head of the Catholic Health Association, to enter into open debate with the bishops shows the intense passion among American Catholics for universal health care -- long a top priority of the Catholic Church. And the bishops' willingness to fight the House bill likely up for a vote this weekend shows the continued preeminence of abortion among all other issues" (Boorstein, 3/18).
Michael Sean Winters, a reporter for American Magazine and National Catholic Reporter, tells NPR: "The bishops have a role they're primarily moral teachers. And one of the things you learn in moral theology is it does kind of tend to this worst case scenario analysis. And I think that may be why they've raised some red flags that the sisters who actually run the hospitals who deal with the poor, who deal with pregnant women facing a crisis pregnancy, they may see that those red flags really are not something to be alarmed about" (Martin, 3/18).
Some lawmakers maintain the importance of those red flags and "renewed a long-simmering war of words over abortion rules" in the current health bill, The Hill reports. Five GOP senators insisted in a news conference Thursday that the bill would provide public funding for abortions, in contradiction to the 34-year-old Hyde Amendment that bans federal spending for abortions except in specific cases. "Firing back less than an hour later, a group of pro-life religious leaders trotted out House Democrats [Kildee and Wilson], both longtime abortion opponents, who insisted that the Senate bill contains more than adequate protections against federally funded abortions" (Rushing, 3/18).