The National Catholic Review

It is difficult to over-estimate the degree to which last night’s vote in the House, passing a comprehensive health care reform bill, was a huge victory for the Catholic Church. Yes, for the USCCB, but also for a view of the world that the Church, at times alone, has sustained in the face of the radical individualism of American culture. The belief that heath care is a right, not a privilege, took a giant step towards legislative enactment last night. You could almost see Msgr. John A. Ryan smiling from heaven.

The idea that abortion is a different kind of issue, one in which principles are at stake that can’t be compromised, that too took a giant step forward last night. It is really stunning that of all the many complicated parts of this bill, especially the public option which became a centerpiece of political debate over the summer, and all the difficult negotiations, the only Democratic amendment allowed on the floor was the Stupak Amendment. Here, there could not be a compromise and by hanging tough, Stupak and his pro-life colleagues passed their critical amendment overwhelmingly. I ran into Stupak about ten days ago, as he was finishing dinner sitting next to DemocraticWhip James Clyburn and Caucus Chair John Larson. If you don’t think it is important to have pro-lifers in both parties, think again.

The happy result last night was a long time coming. The staff at the USCCB and the Catholic Health Association have been teaching, and learning, about health care reform for decades. They have been getting to know members of Congress for decades. They have been heavily involved in negotiations over the past weeks and months, but work on the current bill would not have come to fruition unless over the decades past, these staffs had not learned about the needs of members of Congress, the forks in the legislative road, which allies could be counted on, and all the accumulated knowledge that comes from years of engagement, oftentimes frustrating, with the political process. I was not sure two days ago that they could pull off passing a pro-life health care bill but they did. The entire Catholic Church owes them a debt of gratitude.

The battle is not done. Already, Mr. Hudson is warning that Speaker Pelosi will try and get the Stupak Amendment stripped from the final bill, citing an exchange between Cong. Boehner and Cong. Rangel as evidence, although watching the exchange, I thought it was more about Republican desperation than anything else, as well as a certain churlishness on the Minority Leader’s part. The Stupak Amendment not only passed by an overwhelming margin, it is now the expressed will of the House. The members of the House that are appointed to the Conference Committee will have to uphold that expressed will. Yes, I am all for being watchful, but if this right-wing paranoia continues, look for InsideCatholic to start a series on alternative theories about the JFK assassination.

In fact, the passage of the House bill with Stupak’s amendment last night immeasurably strengthens the hand of pro-life Democratic Senators as well. The courageous, lone Republican vote from Louisiana Congressman Ahn ‘Joseph’ Cao, a devout Catholic, hopefully makes it more likely that Maine’s two Republican senators will consider voting for health care reform.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched an EWTN interview with Cardinal Francis George in which the irrepressible Raymond Arroyo tried to pin blame for the Capps Amendment on the USCCB staff, to which Cardinal George replied, "That is a lie. It is a vicious rumor." Right-wingers have long criticized the staff at the USCCB but the bishops and their staff have really accomplished something huge. Pro-life Health Care Reform. They did not do it alone, but I am not going to wait to hold my breath to see conservatives compliment Pelosi for allowing the Stupak amendment to come to a vote, nor of President Obama for embracing the bill with the Stupak restrictions. (Yes, Obama could have intervened to try and stop Stupak’s amendment and he did not. Is that the action of the "most pro-abortion president in history"?) There is kudos aplenty to go around this morning, but I really can’t express sufficiently my admiration for the work of the USCCB and CHA. All uninsured Americans owe them a debt of gratitude. All future expectant mothers who discover that their health care covers the cost of pre-natal care but not abortion services owe them a debt of gratitude. And, all of us Catholics who care about human dignity and human life owe them a debt of gratitude. Now, on to the Senate and let’s win there too.

Comments

Phillip Clark | 11/9/2009 - 7:49am
Thanks be to God, and thank you Speaker Pelosi! Now that this has passed in the House there's no reason for the shrill, hostile, tone of rhetoric streaming from our pulpits to continue. Now that the House has made an effort to show the American people that abortions will not be funded in healthcare reform why will the Senate not do the same? Why can't some Catholics realize this and stop evoking the Republican Catholic Church motif? Why can't they admit that in Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict, as several popes before him have, described healthcare as a foundational human right?
Rudy Rau | 11/8/2009 - 9:57pm
"Obamacare will reside in the same dustheap as Hillarycare, as twin monuments to the liberal propensity to underestimate the intelligence of the American People." Whoever coined the term Obamacare is opposed to bringing help to those in need. Period! It's a sad and over used political cliche. Health Care Reform has been and is a primary issue in the U.S. We need it and the majority of 'intelligent' Americans understand that.
What we do not need is a final bill that increases the number of abortions and the Bishops have been on top of this to prevent that from happening. The folks who insist Obama is an ardent pro abortion president are in fact ignoring the fact that he is willing to give up any hopes of a second term by signing into law a Health Care Reform bill that denies federal funding for abortion.  Seems to me he is more interested in getting health care to the needy and is not at all interested in 'promoting' abortions.
Comments to the contrary also fall into the purely political category and people who falsely accuse him of being 'pro-abortion' are no more interested in protecting the unborn than NARAL.
While it is too much to hope for, if the House Bill could make it through the senate-with a conscience clause included, and be signed into law, the bill would probably do more to cripple the abortion industry than any republican president has done since the one who presided over the inauguration of legal abortion in 1973.
Anonymous | 11/8/2009 - 7:26pm
Correct me if I am wrong Mr. Winters, but you were willing to compromise on this issue.
Thanks to those courageous Democrats, Republicans and Independents who will not compromise when it comes to direct killing of innocent life!  Thanks to Mr. Supak, EWTN, the bishops, Mr. Arroyo and all of those who won't give in on this issue.
Maybe America Magazine can learn from this.  Please America Magazine!  Be a TRUE voice for the unborn!  Do not compromise with evil!
Bill Collier | 11/8/2009 - 6:59pm
Rep. Stupak is to be applauded for his amendment and his deft use of political strategy. Too bad he couldn't convince his colleague, Caucus Chair (and Catholic) John Larson, over dinner to vote for the Stupak amendment. Connecticut's other Catholic representatives, Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney, also voted against the amendment. Clearly, there's still work to before "pro-life Democrat" becomes a redundancy.   
OBI OBIEKWE | 11/8/2009 - 5:20pm
Bravo to Healthcare Reform!   Bravo to the USCCB!  Healthcare Reform now! 
 
david power | 11/8/2009 - 4:20pm
I agree with Mr Winters this is fantastic.It will most likely be a disaster in the short-term and be very costly to the President.But for the Church and all of those who consider this issue with even a little prayer it is a step in the direction of the Gospel.It hovered between liberal socialism and goodness but the Stupak amendment has saved the day .Not to mention a few of our soon to be fellow human beings."Eaten bread is soon forgotten"my father says and they are cruel words bordering on the misanthrophic but always proved right.This Healthcare issue will be gone over again and again and improved in the years to come.But the apple has been eaten .People will never be happy with their Healthcare but now thank God more can share in the ingratitude.Bravo Obama!
Helena Loflin | 11/8/2009 - 2:53pm
It doesn't matter what the final bill includes or doesn't include.  The Number One priority of the Republican Party is to see to it that both Obama and healthcare insurance reform fail.  If it weren't goofiness about death panels or fearmongering about benign school-based clinics, it would be the color of Pelosi's nail polish.  It isn't about paranoia.  It's about obstructionism at any cost. 
 
 
Think Catholic | 11/8/2009 - 12:34pm
Speaking of conspiracy theories, MSW posted before the vote that "as Republicans try and frustrate the eventual health care bill, they should be very careful not to think that voting against Stupak to make the final bill toxic will work."  Similarly, David Gibson at Commonweal proposed that "The pro-life pros would forgive them" for putting tying unborn children to the tracks in hopes of stopping the train.  But back to reality, nothing of the sort happened, the Republican and pro-life group support of the Stupak amendment was unanimous.  They held to pro-life principle.  
 
Meanwhile all the House members who will negotiate in conference voted against the Stupak amendment.  It is no more paranoid to suppose that they may well strip the amendment in conference than it was for MSW to join the chorus suggesting that Republicans would oppose the Stupak amendment. 
 
The fact is that we need, right now, to get Senators and House members to commit to vote against final passage, either in the Senate version or conference version, if the Stupak language is omitted.  Calling it paranoid hardly motivates people to rally together around that cause.
Agnes Deigh | 11/8/2009 - 12:30pm
Deal Hudson is a Republican shill.  I wouldn't continue to give him page views by linking to him.  These folks are against health care reform, period. They'll continue to insist that abortions are covered under the bill well past reconciliation - where it will survive - and long after it's been signed into law by the president.
Wonder if Prof. Hudson knew the sole Republican to vote for this, Representative Cao, when Cao was still a Jesuit studying philosophy at Fordham.  (This would be before Hudson, er, departed from Fordham.)
Jeffrey Miller | 11/8/2009 - 12:16pm
Not really, The Stupak amendment only provides cover.  It might not even make it through committee during the reconciliation.  Charley Rangel would not answer the question on this.
PLus where is the conscience protection?
I am certainly glad the Bishops were putting pressure, the problem is that the bill is problematic in many areas.
james belna | 11/8/2009 - 10:40am
This is a very good result. It put a majority of the House on record in a clear-cut pro-life vote, and it also conclusively demonstrated that the House Democrat Healthcare Bill is dead. If it took this amount of arm-twisting to eke-out a 5-vote victory in the House, there is zero possibility that anything remotely resembling this legislative dog's breakfast will ever pass the Senate. Pelosi had to shove this through last night, because she could not afford to let House members go home this week and hear from their constituents. The Senate does not have that luxury. Within three months, and probably much sooner, Obamacare will reside in the same dustheap as Hillarycare, as twin monuments to the liberal propensity to underestimate the intelligence of the American People.
Jonathan Sullivan | 11/9/2009 - 4:30pm
I wish I could be as optimistic as MSW about the chances of the amendment making it past reconciliation. As it is, I'm not holding my breath and certainly not letting up on my representatives in Congress.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

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