January 18, 2010 09:00 AM

Guest Commentary By Michael Hichborn

This past fall, American life League joined a coalition of pro-life and Catholic organizations called “Reform CCHD Now,” calling on Catholics around the country to withhold donations to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development because money was going to pro-abortion, pro-homosexual and, in one case, pro-prostitution organizations. Detractors of the campaign claimed that our charges were “politically motivated,” and Bishop Roger P. Morin, subcommittee chairman, said that they were “outrageous claims.” Bishop Morin even went so far as to say that CCHD does “not ever grant funds to any group that is specifically involved in any activity contrary to church teaching" and it has "zero tolerance" for any CCHD-funded group that "acts in conflict with church teaching."

One of the grantees that sparked the call to reform is the San Francisco Organizing Project. Bellarmine Veritas Ministry first pointed out that SFOP gave “major support to health clinics which provide family planning and emergency contraception services to both adults and minors” and posted evidence from SFOP’s own web site. The CCHD responded to the allegation by not addressing the charge and instead praising the SFOP and its wonderful relationship with the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Archbishop Niederauer in a document titled “For the Record – The Truth about CCHD Funding”: 

The Archdiocese of San Francisco strongly supports the work of the San Francisco Organizing Project (SFOP) to expand access to health care to children. Both Archbishop Levada and Archbishop Niederauer have spoken at SFOP events; SFOP has met regularly with Archdiocesan staff to coordinate work on health care access and other issues that affect the poor and immigrant families.

Perplexed that the CCHD didn’t even acknowledge the charge that SFOP was using funds for clinics that provide emergency contraception (which are abortifacients) to teens, we decided to further examine the SFOP’s health programs. And to borrow a word from Bishop Morin, what we found was truly "outrageous."

Here are the facts:

1)    SFOP worked with San Francisco Health Plan in order to achieve passage of the Healthy Kids program. Given the archdiocesan support for SFOP’s push to expand universal health care to kids, it was very shocking to discover that the San Francisco Health Plan is very active in promoting and covering family planning services, which includes birth control and elective abortions for minors.  
2)    The Healthy Kids program, as outlined by San Francisco Health Plan, states, “Therapeutic abortions are covered when medically necessary. Elective abortions are covered.” 
3)    As if it wasn’t bad enough that SFOP’s efforts on Healthy Kids had support from the CCHD and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Healthy Kids itself had the direct and full support of the entire California Catholic Conference. The public record for the third reading of the Healthy Kids bill contains a list of organizations supporting it and those opposing. According to the public record, certain organizations presented arguments in favor and arguments against. Supporting the bill are the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, California Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities of California and Catholic Healthcare West. Supporting arguments in favor of the bill came from the California Catholic Conference, which “represents the bishops (and their dioceses).”  The lone ranger opposing the bill (and apparently the bishops as well) was the California Right to Life Committee who argued that “teenage girls will be brought into government-funded programs promoting birth control and abortion services without parental consent." This means the California Catholic Conference possessed full knowledge of the pro-abortion and pro-birth control elements of the bill.
4)    SFOP claims it “won” Healthy San Francisco. Not only did SFOP “win” Healthy San Francisco, but it played an integral part in its planning. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s roles of advisory groups and departments:

Implementing a city-wide effort to expand access to health services to uninsured adults requires a collaborative planning process comprised of representatives from health care, business, labor, advocacy organizations, philanthropy, research and other disciplines. The HSF Advisory Council was formed to help guide the development, planning and implementation of Healthy San Francisco. The Advisory Council provides expert consultation on: implementation of employer spending mandate, membership, benefits, provider network, utilization, costs, and evaluation. With the approval of the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, the following individuals were appointed to the Advisory Council are:
... Julia Velson, San Francisco Organizing Project.

5)    “Healthy San Francisco also offers coverage for some services that would not be covered under a government-run public health insurance plan, such as elective abortion.”

Due to the support of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Archbishop Niederauer and, by extension, the continued support of the CCHD for health programs that the USCCB has denounced as “unacceptable,” Catholics are left with an apparent contradiction. Either abortion provisions in public health programs are acceptable or they are not.

And while Catholic support for the SFOP’s efforts to get these pro-abortion health care plans passed is ‘outrageous’ enough, it turns out that the pro-abortion national health care plan we are currently faced with was largely inspired by none other than Healthy San Francisco.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in the U.S. House of Representatives, supported SF Mayor Newsom in his efforts, and according to National Public Radio:

The Healthy San Francisco Plan, the city's public health plan for the uninsured, has many of the elements currently under consideration in Washington, D.C. It was proposed as a stopgap measure until Congress moved ahead with universal coverage. Now, it's being heralded as a public option that works and a model for reform.

Simply put, the CCHD and the Archdiocese of San Francisco gave full support to the SFOP’s promotion of Healthy San Francisco, now considered a model for the national health care mess currently being rushed through Congress. So, you can thank these organizations personally if the legislation actually passes. 

But in the meantime, we have to ask, which of these is truly outrageous: The fact that public-run health programs that fund elective abortions were supported by the CCHD and the Archdiocese of San Francisco both directly and through the efforts of the SFOP, or the fact that we called the public’s attention to this support? American Life League takes no delight in criticizing the work of the bishops’ committees, but when the documentation is so compelling and the evidence is so clear, it is our duty to make this known so that corrective action can be taken.

Michael Hichborn is American Life League's lead researcher on the CCHD.

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