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Bishops Condemn Abortion, But Support “Health Care Reform”

Written by Warren Mass on November 03 2009.

The Hyde Amendment (named after its chief sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde — R.-Ill.) passed by the House in 1976 barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortions through funds allocated by the annual appropriations bill for Health and Human Services.

This bulletin distributed at this writer’s parish on November 1 (All Saints Day) featured an excerpt from an earlier, September 22 USCCB news release that reported the results of a phone survey commissioned by the USCCB and conducted by International Communications Research (ICR) from September 16-20. According to the release:

The phone survey of 1,043 U.S. adults found that 60 percent favor — and only thirty percent oppose — “efforts to pass health care reform to provide affordable health insurance for all.” Focusing on that sixty percent, the survey found that:

Sixty percent of those favoring reform oppose — and only 25 percent support — “measures that would require people to pay for abortion coverage with their federal taxes.”

By a 49-39 percent plurality, those who favor reform oppose “measures that would require people to pay for abortion coverage with their health insurance premiums”; and

Among those favoring reform, those who favor maintaining “current federal laws that protect doctors and nurses from being forced to perform or refer for abortions against their will” outnumber those who oppose keeping such laws in place by a margin of two to one (60-30).

Whomever processed the results of the survey was apparently uninterested in the views of the 30 percent who oppose health care reform, since there was no commentary about them.

The release also quoted Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, who said:

“Abortion is not health care. The bishops of the United States are working hard to ensure that health care reform serves the most vulnerable among us — especially the poor, immigrants, and the unborn.”

The release directed readers who would like more information on the U.S. bishops’ position on health care reform to visit (More about that later.)

The contents of these releases evoked a mixed reaction in this writer, as it must for all Americans who are both faithful Catholics and committed constitutionalists (i.e., who believe that our Founding Fathers established a republic that is governed in conformity with our Constitution, which, by its own definition, is “the supreme law of the land.”)

Focussing on the positive side of these statements first, it is indeed reassuring that the USCCB continues as a steadfast bulwark against the scourge of abortion in our nation, and the potential use of taxpayers’ funds to finance any part of this holocaust, which would be the ultimate example of adding insult to injury. Most assuredly, abortion is not health care.

It is also assuring that our Catholic bishops are sensitive to the needs of the poor, including their medical needs. Consider the USCCB Position on Health Care Reform posted on the conferences’s website:

In our Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right. Access to health care should not depend on where a person works, how much a family earns, or where a person lives. Instead, every person, created in the image and likeness of God, has a right to life and to those things necessary to sustain life, including affordable, quality health care. This teaching is rooted in the biblical call to heal the sick and to serve "the least of these," our concern for human life and dignity, and the principle of the common good. Unfortunately, tens of millions of Americans do not have health insurance. According to the Catholic bishops of the United States, the current health care system is in need of fundamental reform.

Let us draw a comparison, for a moment, between the above statement and language from one of our most cherished founding documents, the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (Emphasis added.)

While both statements share similar concepts about the nature of human, God-given rights, please focus on the word "secure" in the Declaration.

One would think that a body with as high a collective degree of education as a conference of bishops — who generally have earned at least a Masters degree, with doctorates being commonplace — would appreciate the semantic distinction between a government securing rights and granting the fruits made possible by the exercise of those rights. And, having been educated about our American heritage and the reasons our Founding Fathers stated these principles as they did, they would be reluctant to advocate a course for our nation that departs from that set by the Founders.

If the bishops have not explicitly advocated governmental payment for health care, it is implicit in any health care “reform” legislation. For government, which is neither an insurance company nor a hospital, can provide health care only by extracting money from the taxpayers to pay for it, or by requiring doctors or hospitals to provide it free of charge.

Furthermore, present health care “reform” legislation equates health care with health insurance, which is a fallacy. This writer remembers when medical insurance only paid for catastrophic treatment in hospitals and patients paid for routine doctors’ visits themselves. And such treatment was affordable for all but the indigent, whose care was usually provided gratis by compassionate doctors or subsidized by genuine charities, not government. The prevalence of health insurance has only bid up the cost of medical care and had the effect of making it less affordable, not more.

Yes, I have the right to life, and yes, I must eat to live, but I have no right to ask government to provide me with bread. (Charity, yes, government, no.) Government neither farms nor bakes bread, but can merely redistribute it, therefore for government to provide me with bread it must first take it from someone else who baked it or paid for it.

What about charity? What about our moral obligation to help the poor, as Jesus taught? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says about charity:

Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own "to the end," he makes manifest the Father's love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love." And again: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

True charity, however, consists of giving of one’s own time, labor, and possessions. If I steal from one of my neighbors (or ask government to do so in my stead) to give to another, that is not charity, but theft. It is for this reason that the Church has traditionally condemned socialist and communist forms of government, which are based not on the free exercise of charity but on redistribution of their citizen’s rightful goods by force.

Some may regard government as a "resource of last resort," making the argument that if people fail to voluntarily take care of the less fortunate, then government must do so.

Our Constitution provides some latitude in such areas as well, since it grants certain restricted and specific powers to Congress and then notes in the tenth amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Therefore, if the people believe that the poor among them lack adequate health care, they are free to contribute as much of their own money as they wish to charitable organizations to provide that need. Theoretically — though it may set an unwise precedent — the people may even authorize their state or local governments to provide such care, so long as their own state constitutions allow for this.

National health care, however, is the hallmark of a socialist government. It has been tried in socialist countries such as the United Kingdom and has been an abysmal failure.

Furthermore, hoping to give the federal government a mandate for creating a massive healthcare bureaucracy and then to believe that it is possible to permanently preclude that bureaucracy from ever using federal funds for abortions is the worst example of political naïveté since people actually believed that the federal income tax would never be more than one percent!

If the members of the USCCB truly believe that there is a need for more affordable healthcare in the United States, perhaps they should consider founding a health insurance company, similar to the excellent life insurance program provided by the Knights of Columbus. Because such programs run by charitable organizations do not have the large payroll expenses of private insurance companies, they can offer a quality product at an affordable cost.

For those bishops who stubbornly cling to the idea that we must further transform our federal republic into a socialist central government in order to provide adequate health care to our nation’s low-income people, we offer these words from Quadragesimo Anno, an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on May 15, 1931:

“No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist.”


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