The Senate Finance Committee rejected two amendments to the Baucus health care bill proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch that would have restricted abortion funding and guaranteed conscience rights for health care workers.
The committee voted mainly along party lines, 13-10, opposing the Hatch amendment #C14 (355), which "prohibits authorized or appropriated federal funds under this Mark from being used for elective abortions and plans that cover such abortions."
Only one Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) voted with the majority. Senator Kent Conrad (ND) was the only Democrat to support the pro-life amendment.
Senator Hatch and other pro-life senators believe the present bill, without a specific abortion funding exclusion, would lead to federal funding of abortion through subsidies to private insurance plans. This vote puts three established pro-abortion Catholic lawmakers, Senators Kerry, Cantwell, and Menendez now on record supporting the federal expansion of abortion by opposing an abortion restriction amendment which would protect current federal policy that prohibits federal funds from covering elective abortions.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee responded to the defeat of this amendment:
Events this week in Congress provide fresh proof that top Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing forward with plans to establish massive new programs that would pay for elective abortions and subsidize insurance coverage of abortions -- which, if achieved, would break from decades of federal policy.
Also by a 13-10 vote, the committee rejected an additional Hatch amendment that would protect the conscience rights of health care workers to opt out of providing or assisting in abortions. Senators Kerry, Cantwell and Menendez rejected this pro-life amendment further defying the teachings of the Church.
In a 2003 letter to the US Bishops' Conference, then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propoganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’" (no. 73). Christians have a "grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it" (no. 74).
Senators Kerry, Cantwell and Menendez also rejected another Hatch amendment to reinstate funding for Title V abstinence programs which had expired on June 30, 2009. It was not surprising that the current administration under pressure from pro-abortion lobby groups, did not seek to renew abstinence-only funding in the appropriation bills passed over the summer.
The Hatch amendment directs $50 million for the next four years for Title V abstinence-only education. However this inclusion will need to pass the full Senate.
The U.S. bishops conference supports health care policy that offers coverage for all Americans and legal residents, but say it must protect the sanctitiy of life from conception to natural death, and conscience protection for health care workers. The bishops want restrictions on the federal funding of abortion that are constant and do not have to be renewed each year.
Senators supporting the pro-life amendments were Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch, (R-UT),
JON KYL (R-AZ), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Ensign (R-NV), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kent Conrad (D-ND). Senator Bunning is Catholic.
Senators rejecting the abortion funding restriction and conscience protection amendments were Max Baucus, (D-MT), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), John Kerry (D-MA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Olympia Stowe (R-ME).
Contact information for these seantors can be found at OneNationUnderGod.org.
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