Tag Archives: Obama

Bearing false witness: abortion in health care reform

Dorinda Bordlee: Current bills embrace the fallacy that abortion is health care . . .

Dorinda Bordlee

Dorinda Bordlee

Quoting one of the Ten Commandments, President Barack Obama has accused American citizens who are shedding light on the details of health care reform of “bearing false witness.” It’s remarkable that the president is accusing citizens of sinning, but his reproach became even more brazen when the independent Factcheck.org at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed that it’s the president himself who is doing the fabricating.

“Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans,” FactCheck.org reported on Aug. 21.

As a lawyer, Obama chooses his words very carefully to mislead us. The proposals he supports in both the House and the Senate authorize government funding of abortion on demand. The details of the abortion-funding schemes (and the end-of-life counseling and rationing incentives) are outlined at YourHealthcare411.com.

But there is something even more disturbing than his false accusations against those of us who are simply articulating what is actually written in black and white in these bills: He is using the unmet health care needs of uninsured and underinsured Americans as a sheepskin to cover the wolf of his long-desired agenda of government-funded abortion on demand.

Addressing Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, then-candidate Obama said that in “my mind, reproductive care is essential care.” He then went on to assure his audience that this would be covered by his public insurance plan: “We’re going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don’t have health insurance. It will be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services.” Obama did not use the word “abortion,” but, according to the Chicago Tribune, a spokesman for the campaign said later that abortion would be included.

Yet, there remains much public consternation and confusion as to whether or not the current bills provide government-funded abortion coverage. This unease is not surprising when public opposition to such coverage is mounting as demonstrated by recent polls. A September survey commissioned by the U.S. bishops revealed that 60% of those who support health care reform oppose government funding for plans that include abortion. Recent Rasmussen and Susan B. Anthony List polls found similar results.

Attempts by pro-life congressmen to amend the House bill with language specifically prohibiting publicly funded abortion coverage have all been rejected. Therefore, the truth remains that if passed in any of its current forms, legislation backed by the Obama administration in both the House and Senate will authorize broad federal funding of abortion. This is why, in late July, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the House bill (H.R. 3200) proposed by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) as a putative “compromise” on the abortion coverage issue. Through a deceptive scheme of linguistic gymnastics, the Capps Amendment explicitly authorizes the Secretary of the Health and Human Services to include coverage for elective abortions in the services offered under public option and mandates coverage for current Medicaid abortions.

If retained in a final form of the bill, the Capps Amendment would indeed allow broad federal funding of abortion for the first time in American history. Specifically, H.R. 3200 states that some abortions “shall” be covered by the “public option” plan, specifically those types of abortions performed in cases or rape or incest — or to save the life of the mother. As for all other abortions, the Capps Amendment grants power to the secretary of Health and Human Services to use public dollars for abortion. It says that “nothing in this Act shall be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing” abortion services that are currently prohibited from federal funding — principally elective abortions.

Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate finance committee, recently introduced a proposal — America’s Healthy Future Act. While not contemplating a public option, it is nonetheless geared to secure abortion coverage in a manner very similar to the Capps Amendment. It includes the mandated coverage (in the minimum benefits package) of those abortions currently open to federal funding under the Hyde Amendment. Additionally, the Baucus plan provides $6 billion for the establishment of health insurance cooperatives which would be permitted to cover abortion. And unlike the current federal practice of not subsidizing plans that cover abortion, the Baucus plan would allow refundable, advanceable tax credits and cost-sharing credits to be applied to plans that pay for elective abortions.

The current proposals embrace the fallacy that abortion is health care. In reality, abortion is the opposite of health care — it destroys the life of a unique and unrepeatable human being, and it endangers the physical, psychological and spiritual health of women who have paid the price for this exploitive practice for far too long. If the Obama administration insists on lifting current restrictions on federally funded abortions by means of health care reform legislation, Americans are at least entitled to an honest admission of that objective — and to truth in packaging.

Dorinda C. Bordlee is senior counsel of the pro-life public interest law firm Bioethics Defense Fund, which is in strategic alliance with the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person headed by co-author Fr. Thomas Berg, Ph.D., a bioethics expert in the Archdiocese of New York.

The Notre Dame moment

What honoring President Obama means for Catholic higher education in America . . .

President Obama receives honors from Notre Dame on May 17

President Obama receives honors from Notre Dame on May 17

Faithful Catholics were almost universally outraged when President Barack Obama received an honorary degree from Notre Dame University last spring. Catholic college and university leaders across the country watched closely as the event put a spotlight on the increasingly problematic consequences for Catholic schools honoring pro-abortion politicians.

“This was the perfect storm,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization committed to renewing and strengthening Catholic identity at America’s Catholic colleges and universities.

“The most notable Catholic university in the country invites the high-profile president of the U.S. who had just taken some very disturbing actions with the federal funding of stem-cell research and abortion overseas,” he said.

Catholic identity

Catholics were initially angered by Notre Dame’s invitation to have Obama speak at its May 17 commencement. But discontent turned to outrage when they learned that the university would also award the president an honorary doctorate of laws.

Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins said the honor didn’t mean the university endorsed all of Obama’s positions. Yet critics questioned whether the same award would have been given to someone who endorsed slavery, supported racial segregation or practiced polygamy.

“There was great disappointment in Notre Dame for failing to act in conformity with its Catholic identity,” Reilly said.

Legatus member Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College, agreed.

“It’s not that people should only focus on one issue,” he said. “But when a person is opposed to a fundamental Catholic teaching, you don’t invite that person if that college is trying to strengthen its Catholic identity.”

Obama’s Notre Dame moment has led some Catholic college leaders to reflect on their identity and where they want to go. “Generally, President Obama’s speech brought a heightened sense of importance to the Catholic identity of our institutions,” said Daniel Elsener, president of Marian University and member of Legatus’ Indianapolis Chapter.

“It’s clear that the Church does not want its institutions used as a platform for politicians to mislead or confuse the faithful,” he said. “The importance the Church places on key matters of faith — such as the enviable responsibility of leaders to protect life, especially the most innocent and vulnerable — must be clearly articulated and supported.”

Bishops’ role

Bishop John D’Arcy, whose diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend encompasses Notre Dame, vehemently opposed the Obama invitation, but the university’s leadership ignored him.

A total of 83 bishops —including five cardinals — opposed to Notre Dame’s decision to honor Obama. Though the university refused to budge, the bishops’ combined voice brought the issue to every kitchen table in the country.

Reilly noted that the faithful rallied behind the bishops with an unprecedented 367,000 people signing a petition protesting the Notre Dame invitation.

“The bishops are on record as finding this offensive,” he said. “They have stepped up.”

The bishops pointed out that Notre Dame was in direct violation of their 2004 document Catholics in Political Life which says, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The left-leaning Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) — which represents 245 Catholic colleges and universities — echoed Notre Dame’s talking point that “the bishops’ document is unclear.”

“The 2004 statement was not directed at Catholic colleges,” ACCU president Richard Yanikoski told Legatus Magazine. “It was more concerned with whether or not a pro-abortion politician should receive communion. Catholic education is not explicitly mentioned.”

Yanikoski said the ACCU is currently working with the bishops’ education committee to revise the document. But Reilly said the ACCU wants to scuttle the guidelines.

O’Donnell says that although the policy is not perfect, Catholic colleges are still free to invite speakers who disagree with Church teachings. However, colleges may not honor such speakers.

Some bishops are taking measures a step further by enacting stronger diocesan policies. Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., enacted such a policy in his diocese in 1997. Catholic facilities cannot invite or give an award to a politician whose voting record is against Church teaching.

“When Hillary Clinton was honored at Mercy Hearst College last year during graduation, I objected strongly to her being invited,” said Bishop Trautman. “I declined to attend the graduation last year. This year we built bridges with the college and I attended.”

When a Catholic college invites pro-abortion politicians year after year, he said, local bishops should take action and question the college’s Catholic identity.

“Bishops have the authority to take away the title of ‘Catholic’ from a college,” he said. “To my knowledge it has never been done thus far.”

Overall, analysts say, the Notre Dame episode was a net positive for the Church.

“We’ve seen a real change in the conversation about Catholic higher education,” Reilly said. “Fifteen years ago it was difficult to talk about these kinds of problems. Now it’s conventional wisdom. It has brought U.S. bishops toward real action to correct real abuses. Notre Dame will be viewed as a watershed moment towards the strengthening of Catholic education.”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.


On that day …

Complaints began to flood Fr. John Jenkins’ office within hours of his March 20 announcement that President Obama would be this year’s commencement speaker. The national outcry continued until graduation day.

Obama told the 12,000-member audience at the May 17 commencement that in the abortion debate, “on some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.” Although Obama pledged in the speech “to reduce abortions,” his policies are having the opposite effect.

Across campus, Priests for Life’s Fr. Frank Pavone offered an “alternate commencement” at the invitation of pro-life graduating students. Outside the university, police arrested at least 27 of the approximately 300 protestors.


Obama’s Catholic problem

Obama’s approval rating among white Catholics this year has dropped from 80-59% . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

In just a few weeks, President Obama will deliver a commencement address at America’s most prominent Catholic university. That is, unless Notre Dame rescinds the invitation or the president cancels his appearance. Neither is likely.

Aside from the obvious scandal of having the most pro-abortion president in history speaking at a Catholic institution, it’s readily apparent that the president has a Catholic problem. When he was elected last November, he drew 54% of the Catholic vote. But between February and March of this year, Obama’s approval rating among white Catholics dropped from 80% to 59%, according to a Pew poll. It’s not hard to conclude that the negative reaction to his announced Notre Dame speech — in addition to a number of anti-life measures he’s introduced — contributed to his plummeting approval rating.

More than 30 bishops — including the local prelate, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy — have condemned Notre Dame’s decision to award the president an honorary degree and have him speak at its May 17 commencement. Nearly 300,000 have signed an online petition organized by the Cardinal Newman Society expressing outrage at the decision.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the university’s invitation caused “extreme embarrassment” to Catholics. “Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.”

The invitation by Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins is in clear violation of the USCCB’s 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life,” which says, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Some have called for Notre Dame to be removed from Kenedy’s Official Catholic Directory, and some have lobbied Bishop D’Arcy to rescind Notre Dame’s status as a Catholic university. The truth is, Notre Dame hasn’t been a Catholic institution for years.

More than 40 years ago the leaders of several major Catholic universities and colleges — including those at Notre Dame — joined the Land O’Lakes rebellion, proclaiming that teaching and research at Catholic colleges and universities should be independent of the Church’s teaching authority in order to be “effective.”

Notre Dame’s administration has never repudiated the Land O’Lakes statement, nor does it require its theology faculty to submit to the Mandatum set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesia. It has clearly abandoned any claim to be a Catholic institution. If Bishop D’Arcy decides to withdraw Notre Dame’s Catholic status, he wouldn’t be changing anything. He’d simply be recognizing this fact.

Here’s another fact the president may want to take into account: The Catholic vote put him over the top in 2008. If he’s considering a second term, he must rethink many of his positions, which are in clear violation of Catholic teaching. If not, his time at the White House could be short-lived.

Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine.

The pro-life movement’s 9/11

The Obama administration’s pro-abortion efforts are bringing pro-lifers together like never before

Marjorie Dannenfelser calls the election of President Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress “the 9/11 of the pro-life movement.”

After eight years of progress, pro-life advocates are facing the possibility of seeing all restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortion overturned, said Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

Real threats

The transfer of power in Washington was a defining moment for a prolife movement which had grown comfortable with George W. Bush in the White House. But if there’s any emerging good news, the new threats seem to have galvanized the pro-life movement.

Legate Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life, said that new energy was evident in the record turnout at the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, which drew more than 300,000 people, according to the march’s website.

“If anything, this has gotten more people out of the stands and onto the playing field,” Morana said.

Dannenfelser concurs. Besides energizing grassroots involvement, she said, the power shift in Washington has caused pro-lifers to respond to each other with a “generosity of spirit” reminiscent of how Americans reacted after the nation was rocked by terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I’ve been doing this a very long time, but at no time have I seen the degree of charity and cooperation that has really come through,” Dannenfelser said. “There is a common goal and common cause. We really don’t have time to argue. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Fighting FOCA

That work has already begun with a concerted effort to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which the president, as candidate Obama, promised to make his first order of business.

However, pro-life leaders say that FOCA, which would undo almost every restriction on abortion in the country, is not necessarily the greatest threat at the moment.

Morana said pro-abortion groups are trying to achieve their ends in other ways, such as attempting to get funding for abortifacient contraception into other legislation.

Dannenfelser’s group is now focusing on what it calls the “abortion bail-out package,” a wish list submitted by abortion groups to the Obama transition team including:

• $1 billion in taxpayer funding for international abortion groups;

• $65 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has been tied to forced abortions in China;

• repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which would expand federal funding for abortions;

• expansion of taxpayer-funded abortions on military bases, in the Peace Corps and for federal prisoners;

• inclusion of abortion coverage in taxpayer-subsidized national health care.

“There’s not one big bill that has it all in there,” Dannenfelser said. Pro-abortion activists are “too smart for that. All the pieces of funding come from different places, different appropriations bills. The real fight is going to be these upcoming funding bills.”

Congressional pressure

The most effective thing pro-lifers can do now, she said, is to let Congress know they oppose using taxpayers’ money on abortion. The Susan B. Anthony List has generated about 40,000 letters to the Senate supporting the retention of abortion-funding restrictions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ postcard initiative and the Red Envelope campaign have also met with similar success.

Pro-lifers have also pointed out the glaring inconsistency between Obama’s promise to pro-abortion groups and his pledge to reduce the number of abortions.

“If you want more of something, you subsidize it. If you want less of something, you tax it,” said Princeton law professor Robert George, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

“Tell me how you can fund abortion, massively subsidize it and expect a decrease in the abortion rate,” he said. “To accomplish that you would need someone who is more than a messiah. You would need a magician.”

George said everything the Obama administration is proposing would in effect expand the availability of abortion.

Obama issued an executive order on March 9 revoking limitations on the use of federal money in embryo-destructive research that Bush established in 2001, restricting funding to cell lines that already existed.

“I suspect the next major step on the funding front will be the repeal of the Hyde Amendment,” George said. “The pro-abortion lobby itself says that the Hyde Amendment prevents 300,000 abortions a year. So this is a very big issue, and I think they know this is the best chance of getting rid of the Hyde Amendment they’ve ever had.”

Obama has already begun to lift restrictions that allow health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions, including dispensing the morning-after pill. The administration is targeting Bush-era regulations that went into effect on Jan. 20.

George predicts the next effort will involve pressuring states to fund abortion, followed by attempts to remove parental-consent laws for minor girls and informed-consent laws for women considering abortions.

The best solution, George said, may be to identify a handful of districts around the country where there is sufficient support to elect pro-life legislators. “Win four to five of those and it would radically transform the landscape. You’ll find a lot of politicians who are on the fence suddenly confirmed in their pro-life convictions.”

In March, the Susan B. Anthony List launched a campaign to do just that. Former congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) will lead the Votes Have Consequences initiative, a grassroots mobilization and voter education effort in targeted congressional districts and key states nationwide.

“If we learned anything in 2008,” said Jane Abraham, SBAL’s general chairman, “it’s that we need to work early and often to raise the salience of the life issue in public discourse and among voters.”

Judy Roberts is a staff writer for Legatus Magazine.










The 111th Congress and Catholic conscience

In 2001, many Catholics celebrated a new day in Washington. Michael Novak noted at the time, “Better laws are coming. Public consciences are thawing.” After a hard-fought election campaign and results contested (and ultimately resolved) by the Supreme Court, Catholics welcomed the inauguration of President George W. Bush with high hopes.

Eight years later, the Catholic vote has swung to the Democratic Party, with a small but significant majority of Catholics supporting the recently-inaugurated Barack Obama. For a host of reasons — from concerns about the economy, opposition to the Iraq War or simply an eagerness for change — a sizable number of Catholics abandoned the GOP and embraced a candidate some have called “the most pro-abortion president in history.”

Catholics appalled by the injustice of abortion are rightfully concerned. More than likely, the gravest threat pressing the conscience is the Obama campaign statement before a Planned Parenthood audience in which he pledged: “One of the first things I would do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” otherwise known as FOCA.

The ominous legislation would do more than enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law. FOCA would eliminate laws such as parental consent requirements, required ultrasound testing and bans on partial birth abortion. The proposed law is so far reaching that Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki warned that the measure would have “devastating consequences” and could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals.

As menacing as FOCA might appear, the evidence suggests that the deepening recession and other pressing issues will likely prevent serious consideration of the legislation this year. Obama’s political instincts are sharp; he is unlikely to expend the political capital necessary to press FOCA so early in his presidency. Given these circumstances, it might be said that our greatest danger is setting expectations so low that the absence of FOCA becomes our only measure of success.

Instead, abortion advocates are already pressing for a series of incremental changes designed to re-orient every significant federal agency in favor of pro-abortion policies. A report signed by 55 abortion leaders in December recommended a series of sweeping changes in the Obama administration’s first 100 days, including $1 billion in international funding for abortion providers and $700 million domestically.

The report also gives a detailed outline of vacancies in the federal district courts and a list of appointments to various executive agencies, which are expected to be staffed with allies where — according to columnist Deal Hudson — “the billions being demanded for abortion funding will eventually flow unimpeded.”

Certainly one of the biggest pro-life battles to come in the 111th Congress will be the fight over taxpayerfunded abortions. Despite the fact that Americans have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars annually to organizations for services related to abortion, the U.S. taxpayer has not directly funded abortion (except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother) since 1976.

The pertinent provision, called the Hyde Amendment, was held intact all eight years of the Clinton Administration and prevents Medicaid funds from being used directly for abortion. The abortion lobby is salivating over the prospect of removing this restriction, which would result in federally subsidized abortion for low-income women, the demographic where most abortions occur. The Hyde Amendment must be approved each year and is likely to spark an intense fight in Congress. Similar measures to the Hyde Amendment include limits on tax dollars for abortion for members of the military, Peace Corps, Indian healthcare services and federal prisoners. Abortion advocates have these provisions in their sights; some have already been lifted.

The debate over taxpayers and abortion will grow more intense as economic conditions remain difficult. With many Americans losing their jobs and homes — and trillions being expended on bailout programs — the nearly $3 billion in new funding proposed for the abortion industry should not pass without vigorous public debate.

Perhaps of deeper concern, however, is the question asked by papal biographer George Weigel in a Newsweek column last November: “Does the payment of federal taxes that go to support abortion constitute a form of moral complicity in an ‘intrinsic evil’? And if so, what should the conscientious Catholic citizen do?”

These questions loom large as the newly aligned power structures in Washington begin to enact a panoply of changes likely to make demands on the pocketbooks of American Catholics — and also their consciences.

Elections indeed have consequences. Yet if recent history is any guide, political winds can change unexpectedly, and what typically begins in high hopes ultimately must face the realities of American politics. America remains a broadly diverse country where prolife sentiments, however fashioned, run deep. Not every Democrat is a pro-abortion extremist, and not every campaign promise becomes law.

What to do? We must take up the challenge as Catholics throughout history have taken up challenges of such import — renewed prayer, fasting and spirited engagement. Thankfully, in American politics there is always hope. And change.

Brian Burch is the president of Fidelis, a national Catholicbased advocacy group which received national attention for its online election video at CatholicVote.com.

The future of America

Life issues divide Obama and McCain

Like many U.S. Catholics, Umberto Fedeli believes this year’s presidential election presents Catholic voters with a clear choice — one that hinges on the sanctity of human life.

“If you’re not right on that issue, it has me concerned about your compass or your direction on other issues,” said Fedeli, a member of Legatus’ Cleveland Chapter.

Life issues

When it comes to the life issues, there’s little doubt that the differences between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are profound. According to a nonpartisan voter guide prepared by Priests for Life,McCain has voted to oppose Roe v.Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, while Obama has made unrestricted abortion a priority.

McCain also supported legislation providing protection for infants who survive abortion while Obama opposed a similar bill in the Illinois State Senate.

But with both McCain and Obama touting their positions on an array of other issues from the economy to the Iraq war, some Catholics may wonder whether a single issue like abortion should hold sway over others in their choice of a candidate.

After all, faithful Catholics should also be concerned about poverty, marriage and a host of other social issues. Many question whether war, for example, isn’t as evil as abortion — or whether providing healthcare for the poor isn’t as important as helping unborn children.

The answer, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is that “not all issues are equal.” The USCCB’s 2007 statement on political responsibility, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, draws a line between issues involving “matters of intrinsic evil” such as abortion and “affirmative obligations to seek the common good,” such as helping the poor.

Faithful Citizenship lays out 10 policy goals intended to help guide Catholics as they weigh the moral dimensions of their voting choices. Topping the list is protecting “the weakest in our midst — innocent unborn children” through an end to abortion, followed by such issues as immigration reform (on which Obama and McCain have nearly the same voting record), poverty, prejudice, peace, human rights and healthcare.

Guides developed by Priests for Life and Catholic Answers Action differ slightly in approach, but emphasize the pre-eminence of abortion and other life issues.

The Catholic Answers Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics identifies five non-negotiables involving intrinsically evil actions: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual “marriage.” The guide also says Catholics should “avoid to the greatest extent possible voting for candidates who endorse or promote intrinsically evil policies.”

All issues are not equal

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has staunchly defended Catholic teaching on the life issues this election season.

“One of the pillars of Catholic social thought is this: Don’t intentionally kill the innocent, and don’t allow others to do it. That’s where our political reasoning needs to start,” he explained. In Render Unto Caesar, his new book about the Catholic citizen’s role in public life, Archbishop Chaput calls abortion “the foundational issue of our age.”

“Obviously we face many other issues this fall — the war in Iraq, the economy, the need for immigration reform and others,” the archbishop told Legatus Magazine. “These are urgent and important. But they can’t be used as an alibi or counterweight to avoid defending the unborn child.”

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said common sense also dictates that all issues are not equal. For example, he said, although every life has the same value, the number of those being lost through abortion far exceeds that of other tragedies, including war. The key difference, he added, is that in war, although innocent people are sometimes killed, the government does not authorize their deliberate killing, as is the case with every single abortion.

The U.S. bishops’ Faithful Citizenship document further notes, “It is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions…. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic, guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.”

Conscience, however, is not a matter of personal preference or opinion, as Archbishop Chaput points out in Render Unto Caesar. “For Catholics, ‘conscience’ demands a mind and heart well formed in the truth of Jesus Christ. And these come foremost through the teaching of the Catholic faith.”

Archbishop Chaput is quick to point out that he doesn’t tell Catholics who to vote for. “I don’t do that,” he said. “But if we describe ourselves as ‘Catholic,’ then we need to act in accord with Catholic teaching.”

Dissenting Catholics

Nonetheless, there are Catholics who, while claiming to accept Church teaching on human life, support pro-abortion candidates.

Among these is constitutional law scholar Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University, who has outlined his reasons for backing Obama in a new book, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama.

Although Obama is a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would undo nearly all state and federal limits on abortion, including partial-birth abortion, Kmiec said he thinks the Democratic candidate has better ideas than McCain on how to reduce abortion.

McCain and the Republicans, Kmiec argued, are focused on overturning Roe v.Wade, which Kmiec considers a “failed and uncertain path” because it would return the matter to the states, allowing them to become pro-abortion.

Kmiec said Obama’s approach, while retaining legal abortion, would provide prenatal and income support, paid maternity leave and greater access to adoption as means of reducing the incidence of abortion.

Archbishop Chaput, however, said all public leaders should be working to offer abortion alternatives.

“But ‘pro-choice’ candidates have used this bogus approach while running for office for 35 years with virtually no results,” the archbishop said. “We still have more than 1 million abortions a year.”

Kmiec also argues that Obama’s positions on the living wage, healthcare, family home foreclosures and the needs of the disadvantaged are more consistent with the Church’s social justice mission.

But Archbishop Chaput said the problem with that line of thinking is that “there’s no way to justify or ‘balance out’ killing an innocent unborn child by weighing it against other social benefits. No amount of good social welfare legislation can excuse support for a phony ‘right’ to abortion.”

Catholic outreach

Both McCain and Obama have reached out to Catholic voters, who make up nearly a quarter of the country’s electorate.

McCain launched a Catholics for McCain effort in December, setting up conference calls with key Catholic leaders and organizing groups in various states, particularly battlegrounds like Ohio.

The Obama campaign followed suit in April, appointing a 26-member National Catholic Advisory Council. In late September, Obama’s campaign revived its religious outreach by announcing a “faith, family and values” tour in key battleground states targeting voters less concerned about abortion or same-sex “marriage.”

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), national co-chair of Catholics for McCain, said the Republican candidate’s campaign resonates with Catholics on core issues like abortion, euthanasia and marriage — and on social justice matters such as immigration.

Fedeli, who co-chairs Catholics for McCain in Ohio, agrees.

McCain wants to create a culture where all Americans will want to serve an interest greater than themselves, Fedeli said. “He is shy to talk about his faith and doesn’t talk much about religion, but when he says things like that, he’s saying we are called to be men for others.”

Brownback told Legatus Magazine that McCain’s position on core issues resonates with Catholics, whose vote will be critical in this election.

“We’re one vote away from overturning Roe v.Wade,” Brownback said. “If McCain wins, we’re likely to get one to three Supreme Court judges. If Obama wins, he will get to appoint the same number and we could well lose the chance to overturn Roe for 20 to 40 years. That’s at the core of this election. I would hope people would pray about it before they vote.”

Judy Roberts is freelance journalist based in Graytown, Ohio.


Resources for Catholic voters

Booklet: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. www.faithfulcitizenship.org

Statement: Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.usccb.org/prolife

Various: Voter guides comparing the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates and party platforms, Voting with a Clear Conscience and more. Priests for Life Political Responsibility Center. www.priestsforlife.org/elections

Booklet: Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics. Catholic Answers Action. www.caaction.com

Book: Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life by Archbishop Charles Chaput (Doubleday, 2008) Available at book stores everywhere or call toll-free (800) 726-0600.

Healthcare choices

A Catholic perspective on the McCain and Obama healthcare plans

With the 2008 presidential election just a month away, Americans will soon choose between two candidates who have proposed significant and very different changes in the way healthcare is administered in this country.

What exactly would Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain do with a system that many people agree needs genuine reform? Would the poor and uninsured be better served by one plan than the other? What about employers and their employees? And most importantly for Catholics, does either plan line up with Church teaching?

Personal responsibility

Legatus member David Wilson, founder and CEO of Wilson Partners, an independent employee benefits consulting firm based in Troy, Mich., sees the respective candidates’ plans as a clear choice between greater government control (Obama) and free-market reform (McCain).

He favors the McCain plan because he believes it empowers people to take control of their own health and healthcare, something he says will improve both.

“Government can take control of all the healthcare payments,” Wilson said, “but if it doesn’t engage the individual in taking responsibility, you will not have improved health, only more costs. Any system that fosters a retarding of responsibility is going to have greater costs and less health.”

Wilson’s view mirrors that of other free-market advocates, including Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, who pronounced the McCain plan superior to Obama’s “Plan for a Healthy America,” which claims it will lower costs and ensure affordable, high-quality healthcare for all. According to Tanner’s analysis, Obama’s plan relies on what is known as “managed competition,” a concept that keeps healthcare private, but with strict government controls and regulations.

The Obama plan would require employers to provide “meaningful” coverage for their employees, contribute to its cost or pay a percentage of their payroll toward a new national plan, which would be created for those not covered by an employer or other government program. Additionally, Obama is proposing expanding eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Plan) and requiring parents to buy health insurance for their children.

“Obama’s plan, with its heavy reliance on government,” Tanner writes, “leads to the same problems that bedevil universal healthcare systems all over the world: limited patient choices and rationed care. McCain’s proposal is much more consumer centered and taps into the best aspects of the free market.”

Access and choices

Like the Obama plan, McCain’s health proposal promises improved access to healthcare, but by providing patients with choices beyond the employer-based health insurance system. McCain’s plan would retain employer-based coverage as an option, but would give directly refundable tax credits of $2,500 to individuals and $5,000 to families so they could select their own insurance provider. The money would go directly to the provider and any unused portion could be deposited into expanded health savings accounts.

In addition, the McCain plan would allow for the purchase of health insurance across state lines, meaning families and individuals could shop for lower prices in states with fewer coverage mandates.

Grace-Marie Turner, an adviser to the McCain campaign and president of the Galen Institute, an organization that promotes free market healthcare reform, said the state-line provision alone could decrease the number of uninsured by 12 million.

Turner said the Obama plan calls for “private insurance in name only.” Under it, she added, “insurance companies would be so highly regulated that they would be little more than governmentregulated utilities. They would have to offer governmentprescribed plans with government-prescribed premiums, profit margins, loss ratios and administrative costs. They would basically be functionaries of the government because the consumer would not have a choice.”

Catholic care

But those who like the Obama plan claim it does more than McCain’s to meet the needs of the poor and the estimated 47 million people who are uninsured. Clarke E. Cochran, coauthor of The Catholic Vote: A Guide for the Perplexed, recently told Catholic News Service that Obama’s proposal is more in keeping with the U.S. bishops’ call to help the poor and uninsured and to fortify Medicare and Medicaid. However, Cochran also said Obama’s plan is not likely to provide protection for the unborn, a key issue for Catholics.

Although abortion and other life issues are not mentioned specifically in either candidate’s plan, the starkly different positions of Obama (who supports abortion) and McCain (who has a largely pro-life voting record), are likely to be reflected in their health policies.

Dr. Steve White, a Daytona Beach, Fla., pulmonary medicine specialist and former president of the Catholic Medical Association, which produced a 2004 report on healthcare in America, said because Obama wants more government regulation and control, there is reason to believe he would insist on including reproductive procedures opposed by the Church in basic health-coverage standards.

White said he fears that if Catholic hospitals support the Obama plan in hopes of getting funds to pay for care of the poor, they may find that down the road they will no longer be able to decline participation in activities that conflict with Church teaching.

Michael O’Dea, president of Christus Medicus, a healthcare reform group aimed at giving Christians “conscientious choice” in health insurance, agreed. “The only way Catholic health providers will be able to practice their faith is to break the law, to close down their organizations or to go underground. That’s where we’re headed under an Obama plan.”

O’Dea said he also sees the Obama plan as contrary to the Catholic teaching of subsidiarity, which says the state is not to “substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1894).

According to this principle, he said, “responsibility is supposed to begin first with the individual and the family. Government is supposed to assist the family but not to come in and take over the family.”

However Tracy Williams, president and CEO of Verus Health, an Indianapolis firm that provides administration services to selfinsured health insurance plans that are consistent with Catholic teaching, said whichever candidate is elected probably would make little difference to his company in the long run because “there has never been a federal regulation around which intelligent people cannot do what is right, do what they want and/or profit.”

Although his firm obviously would take issue with any regulation requiring health insurance plans to provide abortion coverage, for example, Williams said, “Such a blatant trampling of religious freedom would not deserve to stand.

“In the end, business owners in this country — and whether that business owner is a Catholic diocese, Catholic hospital, or an individual who believes abortion is wrong — that business owner should not be required to fund something which is diametrically opposed to his faith.”

Judy Roberts is a freelance journalist based in Graytown, Ohio.