The debate continues on abortion and health care

Anyone who closely followed the debate in March over whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did or did not leave open the possibility of federal funding of abortion will want to read this new analysis by Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University who served in the 1990s as director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. Alvare addresses point by point the arguments raised by Timothy Jost of Washington and Lee University School of Law in his rebuttal of the USCCB legal analysis of the health reform plan and takes Commonweal magazine to task for relying too heavily on Jost.

This is a debate likely to continue for a while. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the USCCB pro-life committee, said recently that constant vigilance will be needed as the health reform law is implemented to be sure no federal funds go to pay for abortions.  We wrote about his comments here.

Alvare concludes that the USCCB’s stand that the health reform plan “fell morally short remains measurably more convincing than Commonweal’s and Jost’s conclusion that the bishops were too scrupulous and alarmist in their reading” of the bill. Read her full article here and see whether you agree.

Follow-up: Both Commonweal and Jost have issued lengthy responses to Alvare’s article. You can read them here and here.

The bishops look back — and forward — on health reform

Those who followed the ins and outs of the health reform debate — and especially the Catholic participation in that debate — will be interested in reading a new statement by the chairmen of the three U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees most involved. Called “Setting the Record Straight,” the statement reviews the various USCCB actions in the effort to achieve health reform that would be “in accord with the dignity of each and every human person, showing full respect for the life, health and conscience of all.” The three — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the pro-life committee; Bishop William F. Murphy of the Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development; and Bishop John C. Wester of the Committee on Migration — said some hoped the bishops might be persuaded to abandon some of their key concerns “in response to political pressures from left or right.” There was “never any chance” of that happening, they said.

The statement came on the heels of a May 20 letter to House members from Cardinal DiNardo urging passage of a bipartisan bill that he said would fix some of the health reform law’s flaws on abortion and conscience rights. You can read that story here.

Bishops assess health reform law, executive order

Bishops are continuing to comment on the new health care reform law and President Barack Obama’s executive order intended to guarantee that no federal funding goes to abortions under the new system. And the buzz is overwhelmingly negative.

Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, N.D., says the law’s shortcomings in terms of abortion funding and conscience protections are “grave and serious matters” that are not resolved by the executive order. “Where the executive order purports to fix shortcomings in these areas, it is highly likely to be legally invalid; and where the order is highly likely to be legally valid, it does nothing to fix the shortcomings,” he said in a March 30 statement. Bishop Aquila also refers readers of his statement to a legal analysis of the law and executive order by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of General Counsel.

Meanwhile, Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, urged Catholics to look at the health reform debate from a religious/moral perspective rather than a political one.  “Imagine if the political price for the passage of health care reform were the reintroduction of racial segregation in Southern schools,” he writes in the Catholic Chronicle, Toledo diocesan newspaper. “This would rightly lead to moral indignation and block passage of the bill.  However, the murder of 50 million unborn children in our country is seen as a legitimate ‘choice’ and is tossed about like a football in the political field.” Read his full column here.

Catholic hospitals make Thomson Reuters top 100 list

Thomson Reuters has released its annual list of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals. Listings of medical centers, universities, companies to work for, etc., are always dubious at best. Rating agencies use different criteria and different metrics, but no one ever complains when they get a top spot.

Thomson Reuters has published its 100 Top Hospitals list for the past 17 years. This year, 17 Catholic hospitals or medical centers made the list. By category, they are:

Major teachings hospitals: Providence Hospital and Medical Center, Southfield, Mich.

Teaching hospitals with 200 or more acute-care beds: St. Vincent’s Indianpolis Hospital, Indianapolis; St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Edgewood, Ky.; St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Baptist Hospital, Nashville, Tenn.

Large community hospitals with 250 or more acute-care beds: Memorial Health Care System, Chattanooga, Tenn.; St. Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tenn.; and Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, Tyler, Texas.

Medium-size community hospitals with 100-249 acute-care beds: St. Vincent Carmel Hospital, Carmel, Ind.; St. Francis Hospital-Indianapolis; Mercy Hospital Clermont, Batavia, Ohio; and St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center, Youngstown, Ohio,

Small community hospitals with 25-99 acute-care beds: St. Elizabeth Community Hospital, Red Bluff, Calif.; St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital, Howell, Mich.; St. Joseph Mercy Saline Hospital, Saline, Mich.; St. Joseph Hospital, Tawas City, Mich.; and St. Mary’s Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Jefferson City, Tenn.

The full list and the benchmarks used to make the list are published in Modern Healthcare.

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