According to David Gibson, the Catholic bishops have been shocked and dismayed at the rapidity with which health care reform has gone from near sure thing to near death. So they’ve written yet another letter to Congress, urging passage of a comprehensive bill despite the changed “political contexts.” Color me not so impressed.
Had the bishops not insisted on their whole package of pro-life measures, health care reform would have been enacted by now. Not only does the letter not acknowledge that, but it continues to insist that all they want is to maintain the status quo, which is simply not the case. Under current law, federal funds do help pay for health plans that include abortion services–in those states that supplement federal coverage under Medicaid with their own funds to cover those services. The Senate bill simply lets individuals do what states can do now. But without the absolute prohibition provided in the House version of the bill, the bishops place themselves in the opposition.
None of this is to deny that the USCCB would like their kind of government-sponsored health care reform to pass. That puts them at odds with those conservative Catholics (including a few bishops) who have been happy to press the abortion issue not only for its own sake but pragmatically as a tool for taking down reform altogether. These include Princeton’s Robert George and his pals, whom Michael Sean Winters outed yesterday. The question is whether the USCCB is prepared to support any sort of compromise to advance the cause, or whether by sticking to its guns, it effectively sides with Georgites. If the former, there’s no public sign of it.