Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wool Garment Over Their Eyes

Three years after a majority of their coreligionists joined them in voting for President Obama, how are things working out for the "Catholics for Obama" crowd?

Michael Gerson opines that Obama's Catholic strategy is in shambles:

In 2009, Notre Dame University set off months of intra-Catholic controversy by inviting a champion of abortion rights to deliver its commencement address. When the day arrived, President Obama skillfully deflated the tension. He extended a “presumption of good faith” to his anti-abortion opponents. Then he promised Catholics that their anti-abortion convictions would be respected by his administration.

Catholics, eager for reassurance from a leader whom 54 percent had supported, were duly reassured. But Obama's statement had the awkward subordinate clauses of a contentious speechwriting process. Qualifications and code words produced a pledge that pledged little.

Now the conscience protections of Catholics are under assault, particularly by the Department of Health and Human Services. And Obama's Catholic strategy is in shambles.

Most of Obama's Catholic problems revolve around his health care plan and the shell games that Democrats played to garner Cathoic support for it. Promises that abortions wouldn't be funded under the plan and that conscience protections would be in place have turned out to meaningless now that the implementation has begun. Ryan Anderson had a detailed piece on the problems that ObamaCare a.k.a. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) poses for pro-lifers in the August-September edition of First Things:

Each state will have a different distribution of plans, but since the law requires only that one plan not cover abortion, a family may be unable to find a plan that both meets its needs and does not cover abortion. PPACA will force such citizens either to sign up for an inadequate health plan or be complicit in abortion. Either way, the Health Insurance Exchanges and their segregation of funds will establish, for the first time in American history, federally subsidized plans that cover abortion.


In addition to PPACA’s funding of abortions and subsidizing of abortion plans, pro-lifers should be concerned about its lack of adequate conscience protections and what this might mean given an increased role for federally funded health care. When the Senate was drafting the bill, it explicitly rejected the Weldon Amendment, long-accepted language that provides conscience protection for those opposed to abortion, particularly for health-care providers. That the Senate refused to include this longstanding language should give pro-lifers pause, especially given the role that abortion interests played in drafting the reform. Conscience protections that apply in most other areas of federal law do not apply to PPACA.

While PPACA prohibits health-care plans that qualify to participate in state health insurance exchanges from discriminating against any health-care provider or facility because of its unwillingness to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions, it does not encompass refusals to train for abortion. More importantly, it does not protect health-care entities against discrimination by various government entities or institutions receiving federal funds. Federally funded insurance companies could legally refuse to cover hospitals and physicians unless they perform abortions, and federally funded hospitals could refuse to employ doctors unless they agree to perform abortions.

The protection from discrimination by governmental actions defined in PPACA is limited to procedures designated as assisted suicide, so-called mercy killings, and euthanasia. While abortion cannot be classified as an “essential health benefit” according to the new law, it can be classified under other categories of mandated services. Each of these categories is left to the Secretary of HHS to define. Thus HHS can declare that abortion is one of the services that any health-care plan or provider must perform in order to be eligible for federal funding. As more and more of the health-care industry comes to rely on federal funding, pro-life doctors and hospitals—particularly religious institutions—might very well find themselves squeezed out of the market.

Federal funding for abortion and inadequate conscience protections are the main problems, from a pro-life perspective, with PPACA. While there can be reasonable disagreement within the pro-life community about many aspects of the health-care debate, on this pro-lifers must speak out with one voice: Abortion is not health care. It provides neither protection in law nor care in life. Any health-care reform that funds abortion, funds plans that cover abortion, or allows for federally funded discrimination against pro-life doctors and hospitals, is not authentic health-care reform and must be either remade or replaced.

It should be clear by now (and should have been in 2008) that you can be pro-life or pro-Obama, but not both. Catholics who thought they could in good conscience keep a foot in both camps will now have to choose.