The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions turned down an amendment that would have prevented any government health insurance plan from paying for abortion services. It is unclear yet whether this is part of a legislative strategy but it is time for Catholic Democrats to lay down some markers.

First, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania voted with the GOP senators in support of the measure. His bishop in Scranton was quick to denounce the senator for voting to confirm Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services and I hope he will be just as quick to commend Casey for this courageous vote. I see nothing on the diocesan website this morning. As I have noted before, if the bishops want to create a culture of life, they must recognize the need to have pro-life politicians in both parties.

Now, the others who voted for the measure may truly want a federal option to cover abortion services, but some may also see this committee vote as a bargaining chip. After all, it is unclear if the more conservative Senate Finance Committee will even back a federal option in the health care reform legislation. Legislators are permitted to vote in ways that appear wrong in pursuit of an overall legislative strategy, so no one should be getting into a lather yet.

We should, however, be letting our congressional representatives and senators know that providing federal funds for abortion is a deal-breaker. Even Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said yesterday that the Hyde Amendment banning federal dollars being used for abortions is “settled law” and should not be overturned in an interview on MSNBC. It is unclear, however, if some complicated legislative language will be found to try and get around the Hyde Amendment. Legislators should know that subverting the Hyde Amendment will cost them considerable Catholic support.

My sources in the Obama administration tell me that the White House understands that overturning the Hyde Amendment could kill health care reform and that they do not want to have this fight despite pressure from pro-choice organizations to hijack health care reform to achieve this long sought goal of theirs. Catholics should stiffen the administration’s resolve on this. To be clear: I have never voted for a Republican in my life. My mother told me my right hand would wither and fall to the ground if I did. But, if the President or my representatives in Congress support federal funding for abortion in any way, shape or form, I will never vote for them again and I might risk my right hand in the next election by voting for their opponent.

So, call your Senators and Representatives. Call the White House. Many of us pro-life Democrats have given the President the benefit of the doubt on the abortion issue because of his repeated commitment to trying to lower the abortion rate, a commitment he reiterated to Pope Benedict XVI last week. All the good will he has earned among Catholic swing voters, and all the arguments on his behalf progressive Catholics have mounted, all could be swept away if abortion is part of a federal option in health care. Politics is the art of compromise, but on this point, there can be none.

Comments

Anonymous | 7/22/2009 - 4:51pm
I too feel abortions should not be paid for. I also feel the military budget should not be paid for with my Catholic dollars. Remember, Do not kill? I did not read where Jesus said it is OK to pick and choose. Until man realizes no one should be killed then others will start listening. It is an oxymoron message. It is ok to kill this one, not ok to kill that one. The world will not listen to those who say one thing for some humans then something else for others. "We are all children of God.
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 7:02am
Look into the eyes of my 14-year-old student who had been raped since age 10 by an incest aggressor father, who was then pregnant with a fetus at once her offspring and her sibling, and who, in order to gain control of her fragile, young life had developed anorexia.  Only the cruelest, most self-righteous, legalistic pro-lifers would tell that child that abortion is a crime and she is a criminal. 
 
As a civilization, we make allowances for taking the life of another in self-defense or in war.  I offer the thought that for many girl-children and women – especially the poorest among us – therapeutic abortion is self-defense.  I prefer to see my tax dollars go to the health care of these victims of male aggression than to an outrageous, ill-conceived war waged by a president who made pro-life a battle cry and then proceeded to kill not just soldiers but the innocent civilians as well and leave the mess for others to clean up.
 
Health care that includes therapeutic abortion ensures that my 14-year-old student (and other victims of incest and rape) are treated with the compassion they deserve.  Far too often, the predominant stereotypic profile of the woman who seeks an abortion is that of the “good-time girl” who doesn’t want to “pay the price” of sexual activity.  That might be true in some instances, but from my perspective, the law ensures that my 14-year-old student will not be considered a criminal for having a therapeutic abortion.  I would like to see my tax dollars help her and not the Pentagon.
 
Advance any argument against tax-funded abortion that you may choose.  All I need do is remember the eyes of that innocent girl-child in my class to know that for her, at least, abortion was her physical and psychological salvation.
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 12:35am
I am a long-time Catholic peace and justice activist and I think Catholic peace and justice folks  have to think more politically and better use their bargaining power with the Obama administration on the abortion issue. Catholics helped him get elected and he needs Catholics. I think we can have some leverage.We need to present a united front on this as best we can. I think we have a moral responsibility to do so. We need to push the party to be truly prolife.
Catholic Republican antiabortion activists need to do the same thing in the Republican party - push the party to have better peace and justice positions and become truly prolife. They have perhaps even more bargaining power in the Republican party that we do in the Democratic party I think. Catholic Republican antiabortion activists have been getting a free ride on this and deserve criticism for not trying to push the Republican party to be truly prolife too. They also have a moral responsiibility to do so. Unjust wars, tens of thousands of children dying from preventable death and disease, the genocide in Darfur, massacres in Chad, etc. are all "abortion equivalents" as far as I'm concerned, not to mention all the needless suffering caused by injustice here and abroad. And today the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons, which can't be used because they are genocidal, is even more absurd than it was in the 1980s when the Bishops' Peace Pastoral was written. If they ever had a moral justification, which i doubt, they certainly don't now. Where is the moral concern and outrage of Catholic antiabortion Republicans on these life issues?
To be antiabortion is not enough to be prolife. To be prochoice is not to be prolife, and we Catholic peace and justice activists need to make that even clearer. As far as I'm concerned, Cathoic peace and justice Democrats and Catholic antiabortion Republicans have both sold out to some degree, willing to sacrifice the morally necessary broader agenda for the sake of specific issues.
For me the ultimate solution probably will be to change the electoral system so that we can have a proportional representation system where a truly prolife party has a good chance of getting people elected. The Republicans and the Democrats may be hopelessly messed up. Check out [url=http://www.Fairvote.com]www.Fairvote.com[/url] for more on the movement for electoral system change.
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 8:45pm
"So, call your Senators and Representatives."  Okay, but what am I suppose to say. Just demanding, "No abortion provisions in the health bill!"  is surely swimming against the tide; shouldn't any bill provide what medical services are available; especially when the issue is seen as a "right" as in the case of abortion as pointed out by the Supreme Court. After all, nobody has to get an abortion. On the other hand, medical care should be seen as a right as should fair wages, housing, and food. Unfortunately, medical care as a right looks like it can be held hostage to abortion as a right. No abortion, no medical care. Does this make sense? Especially when medical care is not an option like abortion; we all need medical care and ought not to be, "taken to the cleaners" to get it. Unfortunately, looks like a deal has to be made with the devil; but, this won't be the first or last time. Just look at the deal with the devil some Catholic publishers have made - no criticism of militarism and hundreds of billions spent to rain death and destruction on mostly poor, ignorant folks around the world - just to get a full page military ad and an invite to the White House! Et Tu Brute!
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 7:39pm
Well said and very persuasively written, Michael. That the courts have found a right not to have this decision interfered with in no way implies a government obligation to subsidize the exercise of this right or to force its provision upon healthcare professionals and organizations.
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 9:47pm
So Sean, all of your (evidently young) voting life, you simply went into the booth and pulled the lever for the Democrat?
AND, didn't it bother you when the president reversed the Mexico City policy, thus sending millions of dollars to overseas abortion providers. AND started funding the UNFPA, documented to have supported coercive abortion in China.
I spent several years working in the Third World - those babies count, right?
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 3:41pm
I come from a "Democratic" Chicago family.  I was taught that Jimmy Carter was the greatest American President.  I also was embarrised to tell my parents that I voted for a Republican.
I too gave the Democrats and ultimatum.  I have since gotten over the whole Democrat/Republican Party thing.  I now have voted for candidates in both parties.  It was difficult at first but trust me, you can get over those sentimental feelings.  You must get over it.  The killing of the unborn is too important of an issue to allow your emotions to get the better of you.
Also,  I think your parents will be proud of you for being true to your principles.
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 10:59am
I used to be president of the Young Democrats of St. Charles County, MO. I did advance work for Teddy Kennedy. I left the party over the Cold War and the Culture War.
I am a little shocked that you have never voted for a Republican. However, I am heartened that you are drawing a line on federal funding for abortion. I do believe this abortion business would have been settled long ago if politically liberal but fatifhul Catholics had entered the lists long ago.
Not a bad post...
Best,
Austin Ruse/President/Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute
Anonymous | 7/17/2009 - 3:14pm
As a Catholic educator, I am always looking for modern day''heroes'' - people in the news who show conviction and principle as a way to help students connect the literature they are reading to their own lives. Your well written, logically coherent and persuasive piece (as seen via Anchoress) is a great example of how an unlikely candidate for resistance can see that a line has indeed been drawn in the sand and he is moved to the level of a pledge, an oath, a vow because he can not cross it.
Thanks for your great words. I was one of eleven Irish Catholic siblings who were also taught by our mother that we ought not ever go Republican. When I did make the change in midlife - because as a liberal I had always resisted an Orwellian big government, cradle to grave monitoring of my acts, myspeech and my freedoms and I saw how much the liberals started becoming defenders of big government because they were employed by government (teachers). Anyway, my mom started introducing me to her friends as the Black Sheep of the family. Sigh.
It's one of my greatest memories to have had the privilige of taking her in to vote for her first Republican president - Bush 43 - because the Catholic bishops and priests started politicing a bit more in 2004 on the abortion issue. She too voted on conviction and principle against 84 years of the way she was trained to buy the Democrat brand.
Thanks again for your principled position. Keep the faith.
Anonymous | 7/16/2009 - 5:30pm
Micheal:
89% of all abortions in occur in the first trimester.
(see: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html )
That's from the Guttmacher Institute.... no friend to unborn children.
Your hypothetical for Mr. Johnson does not work.
Anonymous | 7/16/2009 - 4:53pm
I just got an e-mail from Catholic Charities, USA regarding Health Care Reform.  It is very much pro-reform as an obligation of Catholic Charity.  What it left out is surprising.  There is not one mention of abortion.  Curious.
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 9:00pm
To echo Jim's echo of me, may I point out that one of the most objectionable provisions of TANF reform is the lifetime limit on benefits.  Now, the question is, given that provision, was TANF support scored by the National Right to Life Committee and if not, why not?  This issue must be highlighted on the NRTL legislative agenda, with repeal of such limits being a criteria for a perfect rating.
 
Now, a hypothetical for Douglas Johnson.  How would you react to the following proposal by Barack Obama:
- legislatively recognizing the unborn at either the 30th week or the 24th week, with an exception for the life of the mother, gross fetal deformity (but not including simple birth defects like Spina Bifida or Downs Syndrome but including defects which will kill the infant anyway shortly after birth) and the health of the mother on a bodily injury standard (not counting the simple risk normally associated with childbirth as such an injury) and no exceptions for simple neurosis or the baby blues.
- increasing the Child Tax credit to $6000 per child and making it fully refundable, while ending the Mortgage Interest, Points and Property Tax Deductions (knowing full well that two thirds of the child deduction will likely be used for housing) - and possibly a $7000 credit if rental assistance and food stamp programs are ended so that TANF recipients, who must pursue literacy to at least 10th grade levels, and after that either tech school or junior college to get benefits, with a carve out for Catholic Schools to offer the literacy programs.
Would you take both items of the deal and work to have your membership support it with the Republican members?  If not, why not - as it could prevent up to 3 of 4 abortions (if not all of them, as the lack of demand will close most abortion mills)?
If the answer is yes, would you take such a deal to Obama yourself?
My question to everyone else is, how many on either the left or right extreme would think this is a devil's bargain - and who would be considered the Devil?  Or is the Devil's bargain the one between the Committee and the GOP who would resist any change to the status quo, as it would damage the Republican coalition (or for that matter the Devil's bargain between the Democratic Party and Planned Parenthood and NARAL, who would likely also object). 
Catholics who voted for the President won't sit still for either of the latter two Devil's bargains - but may insist on the proposals I outlined.  Opinions?
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 5:50pm
Following up on Michael's comment (#19) and relating it to Kathy's (#13), welfare cuts have led to more abortions, with the economic class formerly receiving AFDC now the class with the highest rate of abortions.  Even if some women had babies to get benefits, they were having babies not abortions.  Now more are having abortions not babies.  Welfare cuts are not pro-life and such cuts are opposed by the Pope; on this he and the president agree.  Economics plays a major role in the number of abortions.      
 
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 5:06pm
Kevin, the Committees are no longer evenly divided.  Most are 60% Democratic, if not more so.
How can a Catholic vote Democratic?  Easy.  In 5 of 6 cases, there is a chance that abortion is less likely due to what the Democrat would do in office, since that is the frequency of the time that economic factors lead to abortion.
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 5:03pm
Crista,
That is a tragic case!  I will pray for her.
Being evidenced-based (like President Obama), I was wondering if there is any data that this poor child will be better off after aborting her child than she would be if she carries the child to term?  Certainly the child will be better off and at least she won't carry the burden of having aborted her child.  She has enough emotional burden to deal with without having killed her offspring.
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 12:15pm
Comments 14 and 15 (Ron Pagnucco & Christa) especially resonate with me.  Christa writes of the 14 year-old.  How about the 9 year old girl who was impregnated by rape?  Maybe Ron's proportional representation is the only way.  Otherwise Catholics are manipulated by Republicans who use the abortion issue to sell their otherwise anti-life agenda. The Democrats are pro-life on a wide span of issues but not on abortion.  Neither side shows much wisdom on abortion.  They overlook the obvious: it's not the woman or the unborn; it is both-in-one, woman(or child)-with-child.  It shouldn't take Solomon to see this.  You can't help one without helping the other.  One side writes off the unborn; the other side writes off the woman (child). At least we Catholics can pray for the troubled pregnant one AND her unborn.  We can stop performing mental abortion, stop focusing on the pregnant person or on the unborn and focus on the both-in-one.  It's more than either/or.  Perhaps the president and the Pope both see this.   
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 11:26pm
As a Catholic I could never understand how a Catholic could vote Democrat. For the last 30 years I have seen the Catholic Church in America  lose it's way mainly from the misrepresentation of it's teaching on peace and justice. The Democrats have always claimed to be the party that cares for poor and the struggling worker and this is where some Catholics have gotten off on the wrong track. The Democrats believe that higher taxes are a good thing, but  in fact they hurt the poor, the working poor and young families just starting out. The rest of society, may pay more, but will make it through. The groups I have previously mentioned will not only struggle, but suffer.  The Democrats  belief that going after business, big or small, is also a good thing, but when businesses cut back due to government over regulation or taxes, people lose jobs. The people who suffer the most are those that do not have a large enough savings or 401k to get them through, they are pushed down to a lower economic level, by actions not of their own doing. If this wasn't enough, the idea that abortion must be legal throughout all 9 months with no limitations as the cornerstone of a woman's equality is  frightening.
So, when the Catholic Church teaches that voting for a known pro-abortion politician, as was common knowledge about Pres Obama when he was a Senator, is a grave matter, I can only wonder what part of that teaching do the, as you call them, progressive Catholics, not understand.  A culture of life involves the respect for a person from conception to natural death and also the years in between. Expanding big government, reckless spending of hardworking taxpayers money and then taxing the people that will create jobs is not  a culture that respects life it is a culture that controls life and that is unacceptable according to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
I disagree with you that we need prolife politicians on both sides, we need Catholics who really believe what their Church teaches. That is the change this country needs. Join us, the truth will set you free! 
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 10:04pm
Assuming all Republicans on the committee voted in support of the amendment, the resultant vote, with Casey, should have been 11 for, 11 against. How do these votes work such that the amendment was defeated?  Can someone clarify?
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 8:57pm
Thank you, Mr Winters, for your courageous forthrightness and nonpartisanship. 
Anonymous | 7/21/2009 - 11:51am
Kathteach, ironically, my arch-Catholic Republican mother took a look at Sarah Palin and the age of McCain (my mother is 80) and voted for Obama - likely voting Democratic for the first time in her life.
 
Chris, my proposal works just fine, since it is the second and third trimester abortions that produce the most outrage - although you are correct that Mr. Johnson would never buy such a bargain - since without the dead fetus pictures taken in the later trimesters and the spectre of late term abortion sbortions his fundraising would go down precipitously.  He would also certainly never compromise on the economics (even though it would cut the first trimester abortions drastically), since doing so would cause a rift in the Republican base - indeed they would call him a socialist if he even broached the subject.
 
Catholics are obliged to deal with the economics, however.  Most of us did so by voting for Obama.  The deal that I proposed will likely be adopted anyway - either by Obama or a later progressive.  The only question is, how will the pro-life movement react to it.
Anonymous | 7/15/2009 - 4:30pm
Christa,
That incest pregnancy girl in your class is about 1% of all abortions and her kind of abortion are  not the abortions that pro-life Dems are trying to limit.
 
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 5:23pm
There is no such thing as "settled law" in the appropriations process.  The Hyde Amendment may or may not have enough votes to be kept up.  As for the place for abortion funding in health care reform - the best compromise that can be envisioned is to have high deductible and health savings/flexible spending components to health care (whether for a federal plan or private plans that are supported by tax exemptions in business income taxes), with the high deductible plans not permitted to pay for abortions.  Flexible spending accounts will likely always pay for abortion services.
The real answer to avoid paying for abortion is to pay a family wage at $500 per child per month (which is easily funded if tax benefits for home ownership are dropped - both mortgage interest and property taxes).  Of course, if you pay such a credit, the vast majority of those funds will likely go to housing costs - so the housing sector needs to be assured that it won't lose any ground overall - but will likely be spending more of its money on affordable housing than under current law.  Now, how any Catholic politician can avoid endorsing such a proposal is beyond me.  Frankly, if Mr. Johnson really wants to decrease abortions, he will commit his organization to such a reform.  If he does not, then it is clear he is a GOP hack.
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 5:01pm
I was happy to hear of Sen. Casey's actions over this.  Jack Smith on the Catholic Key Blog suggested that a note of appreciation ought to be sent to the Senator.  A good idea to do so, for Sen Casey as well as others who voted for the measure.  An excellent post, Mr. Winters.  It is refreshing to see Catholics stand up for what is right.
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 2:31pm
This is a great statement you have made.  It would be helpful for you to distinguish between federal funding for abortion on the one hand, and a federal mandate that all health plans cover abortion on the other.  The result is the same-free abortions for everyone.  I hope you mean to say that if "health care reform" requires that everyone has insurance coverage for abortions, that's a deal breaker.  To say it another way, if your White House sources succeed in not subverting the Hyde Amendment by federal tax dollars going for abortion, but they still mandate that all state or private employers or health plans cover abortion for everyone, that would still mandate free abortions for everyone, a monumental increase in abortion numbers and culture.  Such an outcome is not only unacceptable but dishonest if it is billed as a compromise of some sort towards the side of life. I hope you will still be opposed. A federal mandate that abortion be covered for everyone by insurance is unacceptable-whether it is paid by federal tax dollars or not. I hope you mean to say that.  If America becomes the land of federally-mandated insurance-covered abortion for everyone, abortion reduction will still be a lost cause-abortions will increase by tens or hundreds of thousands, far beyond what would remain to be reduced. 
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 10:36am
I am the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), and I can shed some additional light on this topic.  Currently, the Kennedy bill and the House Democratic leadership bill both contain provisions that certainly will result in federal mandates that virtually ALL health plans pay for abortion, and that nearly all health networks establish abortion providers.  Both bills will also result in massive federal funding of elective abortion. 
Senator Durbin has a well-earned reputation for duplicity and his comment that the Hyde Amendment is ''settled law'' is a good example - the Hyde Amendment is not a permanent law at all, but merely a year-by-year patch to the annual HHS funding bill.  Moreover, the Kennedy and House Democratic health-care bills set up pools of money that would not be subject to the Hyde Amendment even in the short run.  That is why Senator Hatch offered a ''permanent Hyde Amendment'' to the Kennedy bill yesterday - an amendment voted down by every Democrat on the HELP Committee, except Sen. Casey.
By identical votes, the HELP Committee also rejected amendments to prevent the bill from mandating coverage and access to abortion, and to protect state pro-life laws from being overridden.  A bill to protect health-care providers from being forced to participate in providing abortions (the Coburn Amendent) was also voted down.  The committee Democrats instead adopted a phony, ultra-narrow ''conscience'' provision offered in the name of Sen. Kennedy.
The pro-abortion groups, such as NARAL and Planned Panrehtood, understand very well that these bills would mandate universal coverage and universal local ''access'' to abortion, with federal funding, and they are lobbying aggressively to keep it that way.  We have posted numerous statements from these groups on our website at [url=http://www.nrlc.org]www.nrlc.org[/url].  For example, the president of Planned Parenthood (the nation's largest abortion provider) recently said that the reform legislation was a ''platform'' to expand abortion ''access'' to ''all women''.
As currently written, these bills would result in the biggest expansion of abortion access since Roe v. Wade.  This legislation poses mortal peril to the unborn and it is on a fast track.
Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
[url=mailto:legfederal@aol.com]legfederal@aol.com[/url]
Anonymous | 7/14/2009 - 9:46am
just a personal note..not comment ;as life long Dems, we expressed your opinion = no funds for abortion on public option.. to Feinstein and Pelosi
Ed & Peg San Franciscoto