U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference Contradicts Pelosi's Claim That Senate Health Bill Doesn't Fund Abortion

February 26, 2010 - 7:47 PM
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is contradicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's latest claim that the Senate health-care bill does not fund abortion.
Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted on Friday that the Senate health care bill does not allow tax-funding of abortion, and added that she had spoken with “Catholic bishops” about the issue. However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNSNews.com that anyone who had spoken to the bishops about the legislation should know that it does fund abortion and that the bishops oppose the bill.
 
At a press conference on Friday, Pelosi was asked whether Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who opposes President Obama’s health proposal which uses the Senate bill as its foundation, was wrong in stating that the legislation would allow tax dollars to fund abortion and whether this would be a problem for those trying to advance the bill.
 
Pelosi, a Catholic, said, “Let me say it this way, there’s three, three--I don’t want to say principles--but three standards that we are using as we go forward, and I talked to the Catholic bishops about this and people on all sides of the choice issue.
 
“Law prevents federal funding, and federal law prevents federal funding of abortion,” said Pelosi. “There is no federal funding of abortion in this bill. There’ll be no expansion or diminution of a woman’s right to choose and that does not happen in this bill, and we’re determined that we are going to pass health care reform.
 
“This bill that passed the Senate does not have federal funding of abortion,” said Pelosi.
 

 
After Pelosi's press conference, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), told CNSNews.com that “anyone” who has talked with them knows that the Senate bill, which forms the basis for the president’s proposal, allows taxpayer money to be used to pay for health plans that cover abortion.
 
“We do not know how anyone who has spoken to the bishops could conclude that the Senate health care bill does not fund abortions,” Doerflinger told CNSNews.com in an e-mail statement.
 
“As the bishops have said in their letters to Congress, abortion problems in the Senate bill are so serious that, despite our strong support for expanding access to health care, we will have to oppose the bill unless they are resolved,” said Doerflinger.
 
Inquiries to Speaker Pelosi’s office by CNSNews.com about the USCCB’s statement were not returned before this story was posted.
 
The USCCB has explained in detail, and in several letters, how the Senate health care bill allows for taxpayer money to go to health care plans that cover abortion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Doerflinger told CNSNews.com: “While the Senate bill includes some language limiting the direct use of tax credits to subsidize abortion coverage, it still violates longstanding federal precedent on abortion funding in two ways.”

”First, the Senate’s abortion language limits only the use of tax credits for abortion in qualified health plans, not other funding in the bill,” he said.
 
“For example, the bill authorizes and appropriates $7 billion for services at community health centers (increased to $11 billion in the President’s new proposal),” said Doerflinger. “The Hyde amendment does not prevent direct use of these billions of dollars for elective abortions (because the funds are not provided through the appropriations bill governed by Hyde), nor does any provision in the Senate bill.”

“Second, the Senate’s language on tax credits still allows subsidies for overall health plans that cover elective abortions, against the policy of the Hyde amendment and other longstanding federal laws,” said Doerflinger.
 
“The bill requires each American purchasing such a plan to make a separate payment to the insurer every month, solely to pay for other people’s abortions,” he said. “This is an enormous imposition on the consciences of the millions of Americans who oppose abortion.”

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, also reacted to Pelosi's claim that the Senate health bill does not fund abortion. “She has just repeated the same deceptive claptrap,” Johnson told CNSNews.com. 
 
“She is back to the old denial and deception approach, but she has no credibility on this issue and her claims were repudiated by one-quarter of her own caucus last Nov. 7th ,” Johnson said.
 
Nov. 7th refers to the day that the House passed its version of health care reform with only one Republican in support and one-quarter of Democrats in opposition, which culminated in a 220 to 215 vote. Before narrowly approving the bill, the House voted by a larger margin to approve an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) that prohibited any federal funding of any health care plan under the bill that covered abortion.
 
Michelle Begnoche, a spokeswoman for Rep. Stupak (D-Mich.), told CNSNews.com in an e-mail that Stupak was not available for comment but that “he has made clear that the Senate language is a departure from current law and is unacceptable.”
 
The Senate rejected language by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) that mirrored the pro-life Stupak amendment in the House legislation. 
 
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a 13-page document explaining why the Senate bill allows tax dollars to funded abortion.
 
“Of the two bills, only the House bill conforms to current law on abortion funding,” reads the document. They credit that to Stupak’s amendment.
 
“Thus under the Senate bill, notwithstanding ‘the segregation of funds’ provision, federal subsidies will be used to help expand access nationwide to abortion coverage,” reads the document.