Where do the bishops stand?

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Writing on the WaPo On Faith blog, David Waters concludes a post on the health-care reform spat between Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Rhode Island Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin by taking up cudgels on behalf of the bishops’ worries about abortion:

Given that even Democrats don’t agree
on whether current versions of health-reform legislation will or should
cover abortions, don’t the bishops’ concerns seem perfectly reasonable
and consistent?

The answer is: no. Here’s the relevant language from the bishops’ October 8 letter to members of Congress.

Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test.

The question is: What would meet the bishops’ test? To take one highly pertinent question: Is it requiring people to pay for or participate in abortion if their tax monies go to subsidize someone’s health insurance policy, if that policy includes abortion coverage? (Or, as I prefer to say: “…if their tax monies pay for health insurance vouchers that those who are eligible can use to help purchase the policy of their choice?”) Even if the subsidy or voucher didn’t underwrite that portion of the policy that covered abortion? If not, then what’s wrong with the current bills with respect to abortion? And if so, how is that consistent with Medicaid, under which the ban on federal support for abortions (beyond cases of incest, rape, and threat to the woman’s life) does not extend to the states, which can and in a number of cases do pay for abortion services generally?

In other words, instead of grousing about things not being up to snuff, the bishops need to say what they will support. Otherwise, they’re just playing the old pressure game, unreasonably and inconsistently.