Why Catholics Should Work to Repeal the Health Care Bill

Deal W. Hudson
March 29, 2010

There are only two facts Catholics need to know about the health-care bill to decide it must be repealed: The bill signed by the president includes federal funding for abortion, and the executive order does nothing to remove that funding.

You don’t have to accept those facts on my authority – they have both been expressly asserted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

For those who have been led astray by the false and misleading statements of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the Catholic Health Association, Catholics United, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, here is how the USCCB explains it:

Federal funds can be used for elective abortions in community health centers; federal funds will subsidize health care plans that cover abortions, and Americans are forced to pay for other people’s abortions even if they disagree morally.

President Barack Obama’s executive order – which, after months of stating his opposition, nevertheless satisfied Stupak to the point that he could lend his support to the bill – cannot, according to Francis Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, serve as a “substitute for statutory provisions.”

Richard Doerflinger, associate director for policy development at the USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, explained it was the “unanimous view of our legal advisors and of the experts” that present laws concerning abortion as “construed by the courts would override any Executive Order or regulation.”

Given the unaltered abortion funding, the only recourse for Catholics is to work for a repeal of the legislation. Any justification for keeping the bill in place will necessarily involve proportionalist reasoning.

One such argument being used by Catholic progressives is that the benefit of the universal coverage contained in the bill outweighs the impact of the abortion funding. As Pope John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor (75), the proportionalist thinks in terms of the “greater good” or “lesser evil,” which makes all moral norms “always relative and open to exceptions.”

The bishops’ explicit rejection of this specious reasoning is found in their explanation of why they opposed passing the bill in the first place. The USCCB statement of March 23 contained the following passage (emphasis added):

Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion… If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.

The moral argument for repealing the health-care bill is no different. If Catholics in the United States support the implementation of this bill, rather than calling for its repeal, they will become, as the bishops point out, complicit in millions of abortions.

A so-called Repeal It pledges has already been signed by 64 members of Congress. Some GOP leaders, such as the senators from South Carolina, Lindsay Graham and Jim De Mint, are proposing a “repeal and replace” strategy.

The question of repeal necessarily reaches out toward the 2010 election. No doubt, the fate of health care will be determined by the outcome of many congressional races, perhaps leading to a Congress whose first item of business will be a repeal. Catholics will have a powerful reason – the protection of unborn life – to cast their votes behind candidates who promise to end abortion funding by repealing the legislation.

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