USCCB Weighs In on SCOTUS Decision

The USCCB has issued a statement with which, mimicking court language, I concur in part and dissent in part. The bishops reiterate their call to fix those things in the ACA they find objectionable, but they also reiterate their unwillingness to join calls for the law's repeal. I obviously concur with the need they identify for more robust conscience protection language. I also concur with the bishops that one of the principal failings of the law is its failure to extend coverage to undocumented immigrants and their families.

But, I disagree with the statement when it claims that, "ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy." They should have at least mentioned that several courts have found that the law does not, on its face, permit the use of federal funds for abortion. The instance the USCCB identifies was fixed immediately and was not part of any nefarious agenda to sneak in abortion funding. It is good that the USCCB serves as a watchdog of sorts, to make sure the law is implemented in a way that is faithful to the President's executive order that specifically proscribed any use of federal funds for abortion. But, as I say, the one instance that was identified, which was undertaken by state government officials, was quickly corrected by the HHS. I have my problems with HHS to be sure, but we should not be tendentious.

Here is the full text:
Today the United States Supreme Court issued a decision upholding as a tax the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires individuals to purchase a health plan—the so-called “individual mandate.”
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For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did not participate in these cases and took no position on the specific questions presented to the Court, USCCB’s position on health care reform generally and on ACA particularly is a matter of public record. The bishops ultimately opposed final passage of ACA for several reasons.

First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of “high risk” insurance pools that would have covered abortion.

Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. We have provided extensive analyses of ACA’s defects with respect to both abortion and conscience. The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA’s new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS’s “preventive services” mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.

Third, ACA fails to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly. ACA leaves them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money. This undermines the Act’s stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially for those most in need.

Following enactment of ACA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today. The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above. We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws.


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