“Today all members of Congress were afforded the opportunity to vote their conscience and represent the wishes of their constituents on the issue of federal funding for the abortion,” U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Catholic and pro-life Democrat from Michigan, said Nov. 7. He was the leading sponsor of an amendment to the House’s landmark health care reform proposal. The amendment passed 240-194. The House bill passed 220-215.
Like the Hyde amendment it prohibits the use of federal funding for abortion under the public health insurance option and prohibits using government affordable-health-coverage credits for any policy that covers abortion.
The same day, before the House vote, the U.S. bishops in a letter urged House members to support the Stupak amendment to “keep in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections” in the House bill. The letter was signed by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities and Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“Our bishops’ conference has been working for many years to support health care reform legislation that truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all. Adopting this amendment will help move us toward this essential national priority and moral imperative,” Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy wrote.
A day before the vote the bishops sent a letter to House members reiterating their position on how the legislation deals with abortion and immigrants.
The Nov. 6 letter to House leaders — signed by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop Murphy and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the Committee on Migration — emphasized points that have been made often and firmly by the U.S. bishops.
It urged members to:
“– Support an amendment to keep in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections and to oppose a closed rule that would prevent the House from voting on this crucial matter;
— Oppose measures that would leave immigrants, especially legal immigrants, worse off as a result of health reform;
— Support access for immigrants to the health-insurance exchange, regardless of legal status, and support removal of the five-year ban on legal immigrants accessing Medicaid and other federal health-care programs; and
— Support strong provisions that would make health care more affordable and accessible, especially for the poor and vulnerable, by expanding Medicaid to adults who are living at 150 percent or lower of the Federal Poverty Level and offering adequate affordability credits for households up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.”
The bishops’ full remarks are available here.