There are so many issues in the health care debate, you need a scorecard to keep up with them. One that keeps many people scratching their heads is what’s so wrong with the Hyde amendment? As Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh asks today in an op-ed piece in washingtonpost.com’s “On Faith” blog, why is the Senate hiding from Hyde?
Sister Walsh is the director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The U.S. bishops have come down firmly on the side of universal health care, but they are equally firm that reform of the current system must not include an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion. The Senate bill — the only one under consideration in this 11th hour of the debate — does not include any specific prohibition, such as the Hyde amendment, which forbids federal funds being used for abortions. Congress has refused to put a Hyde-like prohibition in the Senate bill, claiming that it isn’t needed. But as Sister Walsh points out, “The Hyde Amendment has been satisfactory for America for almost 35 years. Why not incorporate it into health care reform legislation now?”
Do we really need Hyde in this legislation? You bet, say the bishops. What would happen if there is no specific prohibition? One needs a crystal ball to say definitively, but hammering out public policy, especially such sweeping public policy, always means trying to anticipate the future and prepare for the “what ifs.”
Part of the bishops’ concern is over the “what if” community health centers, a federally funded program, suddenly found themselves forced to offer elective abortions. They do not do so now, but the bishops maintain that the reform legislation, if enacted into law, ultimately would require them to do so. This is a complex issue. The USCCB has issued a fact sheet explaining the quandry that health centers would find themselves in if the Senate bill is passed without a specific fix.
What’s the fix? As Sister Walsh points out, there is an easy one: Hyde.