The internet is abuzz with statements decrying the United States Senate for its action in defeating the so-called pro-life Nelson-Hatch Amendment to the health care reform proposal. This is the Senate version of the Stupak Amendment. But one has to wonder if anyone has actually read the language. The Nelson Amendment stipulates in part,
(b) Limitation on Abortion Funding.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, EXCEPT IN THE CASE WHERE A WOMAN SUFFERS FROM A PHYSICAL DISORDER, PHYSICAL INJURY, OR PHYSICAL ILLNESS THAT WOULD, AS CERTIFIED BY A PHYSICIAN, PLACE THE WOMAN IN DANGER OF DEATH UNLESS AN ABORTION IS PERFORMED, INCLUDING A LIFE-ENDANGERING PHYSICAL CONDITION CAUSED BY OR ARISING FROM THE PREGNANCY ITSELF, OR UNLESS THE PREGNANCY IS THE RESULT OF AN ACT OF RAPE OR INCEST. (emphasis added)
My, oh my, what a weak, watered-down excuse for restricting abortion funding! This language is actually an insult to the founding principles of the pro-life movement. But for those who deal in cold, hard facts rather than principle, think about this formula, which was e-mailed to me just yesterday:
If there are 1.21 million abortions a year and 12% of abortions occur because of a mother’s health, 1% because of rape, and .5% for incest, then the estimated total number of abortions for these reasons could be as many as 147,015 babies killed.
145,200 abortions due to health of mother (12% of all abortions)
1,815 abortions due to rape and incest (1.5% of all abortions)
147,015 due to mother’s health/rape/incest
Twelve percent of that number, which is the number of women on Medicaid, would result in 17,640 babies being killed with the encouragement of supporters of the Stupak/Nelson Amendment.
That is equal to the population of Greenfield, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis.
Quantitatively then, the alleged pro-life amendment supported by many, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, Priests for Life and others, would have condemned at least 17,640 babies to death every year. What is worse is that the amendment implicitly acknowledges Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton as morally legitimate Supreme Court decisions by accepting the ground rules set forth by the Court. On its face, therefore, this amendment is fatally flawed, but I think there is another, even more sinister plot afoot.
Could it be that the so-called pro-life amendment tactic in the House and the Senate is really a sideshow designed to distract pro-life organizations and pro-life Americans in general from other serious dangers inherent in this legislation? Is it possible that the framers of this draconian proposal want to shield the public from the deleterious effects it would have on the United States as a whole and all of her citizens?
That’s what one Catholic bishop, Robert Vasa of the Baker, Oregon diocese, discusses in a column he wrote a few days ago:
The Catholic support for the Stupak Amendment, which brought the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of the use of federal funds for abortion into the legislation, should not be interpreted as a complete support by the Church of everything else in the health care reform legislation. For instance, the proposed health bill continues to provide abortion payments in cases of rape and incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. This is contrary to Church teachings about the inviolability and dignity of every pre-born human being regardless of the circumstances of their origin.
The legislation aims at further developing school-based clinics that provide, as well as appropriate medical interventions, contraceptives and referrals for abortion. This is a completely unacceptable use of Catholic tax dollars. It is surmised that the states with assisted suicide, presently our own Oregon and Washington, will be provided with some federal funds for “counseling” for patients who might be candidates for this “medical service.” This too is unacceptable. There has been a program of federally funded abstinence education and the present proposal abolishes this while funding sex education. These sex education programs generally provide information on “how to” while avoiding pregnancy rather than “why not.” Whether this component is linked to abortion or not, and it probably is, the Church certainly opposes this approach to sex education. There may be some conscience protections in the bill particularly with regard to direct and intentional as well as elective abortion but this is grossly inadequate. Catholic and Christian physicians and nurses, well as all men and women of good will, as well as private or religious health care institutions, need to be free from coercion relative to the so-called “medically necessary” abortions, contraception, sterilization, and other “services” that do not respect the value, sanctity or integrity of human life. Such adequate conscience protections are not currently included.
There are other more global issues that make the health care reform legislation problematic. The provision of health care is done in the context of a sacrosanct relationship — that between the patient and the physician. This is both a personal and a professional relationship and the physician has the right and the need to be free to diagnose and prescribe for the patient a mode of treatment that is morally and medically sound. There is already a degree of interference in this relationship by way of a variety of mechanisms, but the reform legislation seems to heighten that interference. Further, the reform legislation moves in the direction of a monolithic system with many coverage mandates and little option for families to change the coverage provisions of their personal health care plan or to form pools that reward healthy behaviors. Many plans, for instance, are mandated to provide contraceptive coverage and any Catholic family who would wish to have this coverage excluded from their plan would be prohibited from doing so. They are thus forced to pay for a provision they oppose for religious reasons and that would, in this plan, be available to their minor children without parental consent. This intrusion into the heart of the family is likewise offensive.
Needless to say, the legislation is seriously flawed and though there might have been some small sense of victory with the Stupak Amendment there are still very serious concerns about the impact that this legislation could have on the provision of health care in America. It is not expected that we will be able to configure the plan in such a way that it would be entirely consistent with Catholic moral and social principles but we must work to assure, at very least, that we are free to live our faith in a way consistent with our faith tradition. The inclusion of a comprehensive conscience protection clause would go a long way in assuring that freedom.
Bishop Vasa speaks for many of us with his carefully constructed analysis of the fundamental difficulties we are currently confronting. His Excellency sees clearly the problematic nature of an anti-life Congress and administration committed to controlling the health care system by doling out services according to some bureaucratic agenda guaranteed to be anything but pro-life in principle or action.
I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to leave the mayhem, mischief and murder to mystery novelists, rather than seeing them played out in the life-or-death situations that families must face every single day.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves and face the truth of the matter. For many years now, the U.S. government has upheld and supported decriminalized abortion, and thus has been the arbiter of neither justice nor mercy. Let’s pray for a real Christmas gift for our nation: the death of health care reform as currently proposed.