19 April 2010

Like Health Care Reform - Thank A Nun!

Slightly under two weeks ago the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) issued a perspective report titled: The Real Pro-Life Stance --- Health Care Reform and Abortion Funding.

The author of the perspective, George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H. sums up the recent abortion funding display in the health care reform circus in this way, "There is no politics like abortion politics, and there are political winners and losers in the abortion sideshow.  President Obama is the big winner: he got a bill passed when passage seemed unlikely, and he remained constant in his pledge that under his plan, "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions".  Stupak's Political future will be decided in the fall election (this was written prior to Stupak's stunning decision not to seek reelection), but in the eyes of many, including me, he has gained political stature by agreeing to support health care reform without his amendment.  Political losers include Congressman, Joe Pitts (R-PA) and the fundamentalist Christian political leadership group known as the Family or the Fellowship, as well as the Catholic Bishops, all of whom insisted the that health reform should not be passed without inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts amendment."

But, let us recall that while the Bishops were pontificating against health care reform Catholic woman's orders (nuns) were in favor of the reform measures without the Stupak-Pitts amendment.  It requires no leap of faith to understand why...the majority work in the deliverance of health care (more than 1200 institutions and organizations nationwide) and understood the real issues and problems with a practical knowledge well beyond that of their superiors.

The religious orders were supported by the Catholic Health Association of the United States which came forth in support of reform without the Stupak-Pitts amendment during the most heated period of the run up to the final vote.  Quoting Annas, "the nuns noted that the bill will not provide taxpayer money for elective abortions.  It will uphold longstanding conscience protections, and it will make new investments...in support of pregnant women".
The stated intent of the Stupak-Pitts amendment was to prohibit the use of federal funds "to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother".

Critics of the amendment charged that its inclusion, would result in "women losing health benefits they have today. Simply put, the Stupak-Pitts amendment would restrict women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market, undermining the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premiums with their own money. This amendment reaches much further than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited public funding of abortion in most instances since 1977."

On final passage, as we now know,  the amendment was ditched, which as the nuns put it, "This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it" 

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