In a parable, Jesus tells us that when seed falls on rich soil, it produces fruit, a hundred, or sixty, or thirty fold. (cf. Matthew 13:8) The seeds, of course, are those who hear the word of God, understand it and act in response. Fertile soil and growing seeds are fitting images for the current health care reform debate in Washington, DC.
Political analysts will long debate the success of the pro-life amendment, sponsored by Representatives Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) and others, to the health care reform proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives; but there is little doubt that mobilized grassroots support had a big influence on the outcome. With the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) leading the effort, thousands of people contacted Congress demanding that abortion funding be removed from the bill. In the week before the vote, citizens sent 200,000 e-mails through USCCB’s advocacy website and one Congressional office fielded over 2,000 phone calls in one day.
The Church teaches that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This is the foundation of our opposition to abortion and euthanasia. The Church also teaches, “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services.” (Pacem in Terris, 1963) If we believe what the Church teaches, we must work toward genuine health care reform that protects the lives and dignity of all. The Catholic Church sees this as a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.
According to a September 2009 survey, 67% of Americans oppose requiring people to pay for abortion coverage through their taxes. Many Americans are hearing and understanding that abortion is wrong, and they are taking action in droves. The overwhelming outcry of the public against abortion funding in health care reform is strong evidence that pro-life seeds are taking root.
This is good news, but the debate is far from over.
In a 54-45 vote, the Senate defeated an amendment sponsored by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) that would have inserted language similar to the House-approved Stupak-Pitts-Dahlkemper amendment restricting federal funding for elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions. Senator Casey voted yes; Senator Arlen Specter voted no. If the Senate now passes a bill without abortion restrictions, the two versions must be reconciled in a conference committee.
Americans should not be forced to pay for the destruction of unborn children as a part of needed health care reform. Other essential moral priorities must be addressed: protecting conscience rights, making health care more affordable and accessible for those without coverage, and ensuring that immigrants do not lose or will not be denied needed health care coverage. We cannot allow the grassroots support for life and the dignity of the human person to wither. Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all can be accomplished if we allow our faith to take root in fertile soil.
Full debate on health care reform is happening now. Thank Senator Casey, Congressman Pitts and Congresswoman Dahlkemper for their continued pro-life leadership. Call your Congressional Representatives and urge them to insist upon a final version of health care reform that upholds longstanding policies against abortion funding, and please protect conscience rights in health care reform.
PCC Column December 2009 by A.B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.