Friday 26 March 2010

US health care bill highlights danger of bargaining over babies' lives

President Barack Obama has signed into law the health care bill passed by the US Congress. As feared, the new law provides massive funding for abortion. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has described the law as "the most abortion-expansive piece of legislation ever" before Congress. At the last moment, Congressman Bart Stupak (pictured with President Obama) and other Democrat politicians who claim to be pro-life made a deal with Mr Obama. Mr Obama offered to sign an presidential executive order, allegedly excluding funding for abortion from the bill, if these Democrat politicians would agree to vote for the bill. The deal enabled the bill to pass.

All the main pro-life groups plus the Catholic bishops' conference have rejected the executive order as worthless. Pro-life groups have stripped Stupak of endorsements and prospective honours. Many pro-life groups feel betrayed, considering that they supported Mr Stupak last year when he was successful in having an earlier version of the bill changed with what they regarded as a worthwhile amendment. Some pro-life groups had warned, though, that the amendment was a half-measure which couldn't make the bill ethically acceptable. They feared that the amendment would actually help, not hinder, the passing of an law with many anti-life evils.

The lesson for the UK from the US health care bill is clear. The Church, and pro-life groups, must:
  • oppose, from the very start and throughout its progress, any legislation in which there is a distinct possibility of any individual's right to life being undermined
  • not be cowed from speaking out against bargaining over babies' lives, out of a misplaced fear of divisiveness or disloyalty.
Sadly, Catholic bishops' conferences and many pro-lifers in the UK and Ireland did not see the prudence of this approach during the: All too predictably, this weekend's Tablet greets the health care bill with an editorial headlined "America affirms right to life" and a feature article headlined "Victory for dignity". Both the editorial and feature article are replete with gross misrepresentations. For example, the editorial claims that Mr Obama "buil[t] into his scheme cast-iron guarantees to meet" pro-life objections, yet the main pro-life groups have explained in great detail that Mr Obama's guarantees are worthless deceits. The feature article claims that the bill "received widespread support from a host of pro-life leaders", when in fact Democrats for Life was the only pro-life group to support the bill. The feature article omits mention of the many pro-abortion and other anti-life elements in the bill, and makes specific claims (e.g. on community health centres) which pro-life experts have already debunked. 

Such obfuscation is spread and replicated elsewhere in the Catholic media, by bishops' conferences and their agencies, and by Catholic parliamentarians. Sorting out this problem is a Herculean task akin to cleaning out the Augean stables. We cannot, however, shirk from this task, for the sake of the unborn and the vulnerable born.

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