It’s My Nature

Guest commentary by Michael Hichborn

An old parable tells of an incident between a frog and a scorpion. As the story goes, a frog was about to swim across a river when a scorpion asked him for a ride. The frog, knowing of the scorpion’s deadly tail, said, “How do I know you will not try to kill me?” The scorpion replied, “If I sting you, we will both drown because I cannot swim.” Seeing the logic of his argument, the frog agreed to give the scorpion a lift. However, halfway to the other side, the scorpion stung the frog on its back. As the poison began to take effect, the frog asked, “Why did you sting me?” The scorpion replied, “It’s my nature.”

Last August, I revealed in the ALL Report that the Catholic Health Association was promoting President Obama’s health care reform efforts, even though it called for the expansion of government-funded abortion, birth control, sex education and euthanasia. In an attempt to clarify her position, Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, agreed to discuss her support of Obamacare with ALL President Judie Brown on Raymond Arroyo’s The World Over on EWTN. In the interview, Sr. Keehan said, “We are working closely with our bishops, and have been working with our bishops for years now. We are not at cross purposes with our bishops.” Sr. Keehan stated—at least four times—that CHA would compromise on preferences, but not on principles. And when asked if she was willing to withdraw support for health care reform should it not include strict protections for the preborn, the elderly and the infirm, Sr. Keehan said, “We’ve already said clearly, unless our principles are met, we are not going to be supportive.”

Other organizations, such as NETWORK and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (currently being investigated by the Vatican) made similar statements: They said that they supported the efforts of the bishops and called for protections for the preborn, the elderly and the infirm. However, when the cards were on the table and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied against the reform bill, CHA, NETWORK and LCWR all broke ranks with the bishops and, instead, supported Obamacare.

What happened? Why did these “Catholic” organizations and individuals directly countermand the USCCB and themselves by supporting a bill that expands abortion, birth control and euthanasia? While Sr. Keehan acknowledged a “major concern on life issues,” she focused primarily on what she hopes the reform law will do.

The following is a brief, but sobering, analysis of the health care reform bill signed into law by Barack Obama last week. H.R. 3590 contains the following sections:


Under subparagraph (b), the Secretary is charged with defining “essential health benefits” to be included in all federally funded health care plans, such as “preventative and wellness services.” Considering that the phrase “pregnancy prevention service” is rapidly becoming the new code for birth control and contraception, the possibility that essential health benefits will include birth control is a real concern.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with this section. Subsection 4 states:

(4) REQUIRED ELEMENTS FOR CONSIDERATION – In defining the essential health benefits under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall—

(D) ensure that health benefits established as essential not be subject to denial to individuals against their wishes on the basis of the individuals’ age or expected length of life or of the individuals’ present or predicted disability, degree of medical dependency, or quality of life;

Should birth control be deemed “essential health care” under the former provision then none of the health care plans may deny coverage for it for any reason.


(a) In General – The Federal Government, and any State or local government or health care provider that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act (or under an amendment made by this Act) or any health plan created under this Act (or under an amendment made by this Act), may not subject an individual or institutional health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the entity does not provide any health care item or service furnished for the purpose of causing, or for the purpose of assisting in causing, the death of any individual, such as by assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.

Nothing in subsection (a) shall be construed to apply to, or to affect, any limitation relating to—

(1) the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment or medical care;
(2) the withholding or withdrawing of nutrition or hydration;
(3) abortion; or
(4) the use of an item, good, benefit, or service furnished for the purpose of alleviating pain or discomfort, even if such use may increase the risk of death, so long as such item, good, benefit, or service is not also furnished for the purpose of causing, or the purpose of assisting in causing, death, for any reason.

So, you can’t take direct actions toward killing a patient, but you can take away food, water and oxygen, and administer “dangerous” doses of pain medication (even though it may cause death), so long as that is not the intention. Meant to be a conscience protection clause, this section completely redefines acts that “provide any health care item or service furnished for the purpose of causing, or for the purpose of assisting in causing, the death of any individual, such as by assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing.”  Specifically excluded from this definition is the withdrawing of medication or treatment, the withdrawing of nutrition and/or hydration and abortion, which is to effectively redefine euthanasia, assisted suicide, mercy killing, etc.  Chillingly, clause (4) implies the notion that doctors and offices can be discriminated against if they refuse to administer dangerous “lethal” doses of pain medication so long as their “intent” is not to harm or kill the patient. The double-edged sword there is that doctors who do such things are protected under the Act and doctors who refuse to administer such doses will be discriminated against. So much for prohibiting discrimination!

This section is extremely confusing because it amends multiple sections of the voluminous Social Security Act, however it is possible to ascertain certain points by following the leads. After making several alterations to the Social Security Act, Section 2303 amends section:

1902(a)(10) of the Social Security Act … (B) by inserting ‘, and (XVI) the medical assistance made available to an individual described in subsection (ii) shall be limited to family planning services and supplies described in section 1905(a)(4)(C) including medical diagnosis and treatment services that are provided pursuant to a family planning service in a family planning setting … 

Section 1902 (a)(10) outlines what MUST be included in state plans for medical assistance, and section 1905(a)(4)(C) merely says, “family planning services and supplies furnished (directly or under arrangements with others) to individuals of child-bearing age (including minors who can be considered to be sexually active) who are eligible under the State plan and who desire such services and supplies.” 

Current law requires family planning in all state Medicaid programs. However, this new language will allow states to set up special programs to provide family planning (including artificial contraception) to people who are otherwise ineligible for Medicaid—for example, if the individual makes too much money to get Medicaid unless she is pregnant (there is a higher income eligibility limit for pregnant women than non-pregnant women). Under this provision, she would be allowed to receive family-planning-only Medicaid in states that choose to participate. In addition, Section 2202, under the title, “Permitting hospitals to make presumptive eligibility determinations for all Medicaid eligible populations” allows family planning clinics to enroll women in family planning under Medicaid on the spot.

Now, “Family planning services and supplies” are not specifically defined in section 1905 (a)(4)(C), and it only provides a circular definition. Since Planned Parenthood and other such organizations define family planning as including all forms of birth control and even abortion, it is reasonable to conclude that this is how it will be defined here as well.  To this end, we can say that the new law, as written, requires state plans to provide the full range of birth control, including abortion.


Title V of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 701 et seq.), as amended by sections 2951 and 2952(c), is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘ SEC. 513. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY EDUCATION.

‘ (A) IN GENERAL- In this section, the term ‘personal responsibility education program’ means a program that is designed to educate adolescents on—

‘ (i) both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, consistent with the requirements of subparagraph (B); and
‘ (ii) at least 3 of the adulthood preparation subjects described in subparagraph (C).

‘ (B) REQUIREMENTS – The requirements of this subparagraph are the following:

‘ (iv) The program places substantial emphasis on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy among youth and sexually transmitted infections.

Title V of the Social Security Act is the MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH SERVICES BLOCK GRANT. Section 2953 of the new health care law creates a new section under that title, which amounts to sex education. This new section expands new title funds for organizations such as Planned Parenthood for the purpose of indoctrinating children in all forms of birth control. Planned Parenthood already receives social security grants through Titles III, VI and X of the Public Health Service Act and Titles XIX and XX of the Social Security Act; this section provides yet another vein of blood-money to the nation’s largest abortion chain.

Continuing in the same section:

(b) Purpose –

‘ (1) IN GENERAL – The purpose of an allotment under subsection (a)(1) to a State is to enable the State (or, in the case of grants made under subsection (a)(4)(B), to enable a local organization or entity) to carry out personal responsibility education programs consistent with this subsection.

Clearly, the intention of the program is to indoctrinate kids in all forms of birth control. Regardless of whether or not there is an “opt-out” clause for individuals to whom this education applies, the fact of the matter is that more federal funds will be used to indoctrinate kids in immoral practices.


(1) PROGRAM – The Secretary of Health and Human Services (in this subsection referred to as the ‘Secretary’) shall establish a program to award grants to eligible entities to support the operation of school-based health centers.

This section opens funds for grants to create school-based health centers. These health centers provide a vast array of services and, while this section specifies that it will not allow for the performance of abortions, it says nothing of birth control or contraception. Given broad statements such as “comprehensive primary health services,” it is not unreasonable to assert that this language includes birth control. And considering the parameters set for establishing and operating these health centers, it is possible that Planned Parenthood could potentially become such an entity.

There have been numerous analyses of this particular piece of legislation explaining other areas of concern, so the real question is why did CHA, NETWORK and LCWR break with the USCCB and support this law? Either these groups did not carefully analyze the bill, as they claimed, or they willfully deny that these sections exist. Either way, one thing is clear. These progressive organizations, which have enjoyed a long relationship with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, did exactly what they will always do; they placed political expediency above Catholic principle. In other words, the USCCB—and by extension, millions of preborn babies now in greater danger because of this law—was stung by these groups because “it’s their nature.”

Michael Hichborn is director of American Life League’s Canon 915 project  and a researcher for Reform CCHD Now