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By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The thousands of pages in the health care reform legislation contain much to ponder, but what’s most puzzling is the shying away from the Hyde Amendment in the Senate bill.
The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1976 and prevents use of federal money to pay for elective abortions and health plans that include them. It has saved U.S. taxpayers from having to pay for others’ elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment has been satisfactory for America for almost 35 years. Why not incorporate it into health care reform legislation now?
The House version of the health care reform legislation incorporated Hyde language and the Capitol Dome did not fall – in fact, inclusion of the language helped ensure House approval of the bill. For whatever reason, the Senate rejected that approach.
Why would any member of Congress want to use health care reform to promote elective abortion? And why has the Senate designed a system that lets insurance companies force people to pay for abortion services they do not want and find morally repulsive – and gives federal subsidies to those companies to help them do it?
That could happen under the Senate bill, if your child has asthma and the best specialist is not in the one health plan in your state that excludes abortion services. To get your child to that specialist, you’d have to ante up for the abortion fund in the plan.
Those who insist on expanding abortion rights through health care legislation are willing to sink health care reform and with it the hopes of desperate people. Among them are people with pre-existing conditions whom insurance executives ban to cut risk in their insurance pools. They include people without the wherewithal to pay insurance premiums equal to mortgage payments. The abortion proponents have one goal – to expand abortion as far as possible regardless of consequences.
Who would promote such policies? Planned Parenthood, the well-financed, government-subsidized organization that is the major promoter of abortion in the world? And NOW, which recently was termed the “National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us” by Washington Post sports writer Sally Jenkins, a self-described pro-choicer?
NOW president Terry O’Neill, opposing efforts to keep the status quo on abortion in health care reform legislation, stated directly: “We will never stop fighting for the right of every woman to have equal access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.” (This does not benefit women at their earliest stage of life, those still in utero.)
The grandest irony of all is the effort to blame the church for the current health care reform impasse. The church, which has pleaded for decades for such reform, today gets blamed for hurting this cause by holding that the legislation must uphold current law and not expand violence against voiceless children in the womb. And following the principle that the first casualty of war is truth, Planned Parenthood states falsely on its Website that the US bishops threaten to bring down the health care bill unless it eliminates private health care coverage for abortion. What the bishops have said is that for health care reform they would live with the status quo, where the government does not pay for abortions or abortion-containing health plans, but people who want abortion coverage can purchase it with other funds.
Why anyone in Congress would want to hide from Hyde is astounding. This is legislation that has had bipartisan support since it was first passed more than three decades ago. It has been proven to work. This amendment’s policy governs the health insurance program for federal workers that is envied by everyone not on the federal payroll. The Hyde Amendment saves taxpayers from the ignominy of seeing their tax money used to end innocent lives. A wise leadership would adopt Hyde in a minute, and move on to creating a reformed health care plan with an abortion position people already have shown they can live with.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.