Why Amend the Health Care Bill?

Deal Hudson is right when he states that the prospects for a new bill that would amend the just-passed health care bill are nil. He wants bishops to “call out” Catholic members who do not support the new bill which would seek to enhance the current restrictions on the possibility of federal funds being used to cover abortions. But, the reason there is so little support for such a measure is because there is so little need for such a measure.

Hudson makes light of the Executive Order that President Obama signed shortly after the bill passed. The Order stated that no federal funds would be used for abortions. Hudson notes that this Order lacks the same force as a statutory provision, but he fails to note that a Court case would be needed to overturn the Executive Order. Perhaps a suit will be forthcoming, perhaps not. If suit was brought by pro-choice groups, and if it won, then there would be a reason for pro-life Democrats like Cong. Bart Stupak to sign on to the measure. But, as Stupak and others, including myself, have made clear, we think the restrictions in the health care bill, combined with the Executive Order, are sufficient to ensure that no federal funds are used for abortion. If a Court says we are wrong, then back to the drawing boards for sure.

Hudson is no dummy. He knows how politics works. He is smart enough to realize that the President, having made as solemn a pledge as a President can make, would gain no political advantage from seeing his Executive Order gutted by the courts. Hudson is just trying to cause trouble.

Why the Bishops are so gung ho for the new provision is more of a mystery. Clearly, they continue to believe that the President cannot be taken at his word. Clearly, they think that the original bill should have gone further, even though they never, not once, acknowledged the difficulty with the original Stupak Amendment, which would have effectively prevented private insurers from offering coverage for abortion to individuals buying an insurance policy with their own money in the new exchanges. The original Stupak Amendment went beyond the Hyde Amendment restrictions which is why it failed in the Senate. Even if the new suggested amendments passed the House, they would fail in the Senate for the same reason.

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