A perfect storm

Supreme Court of the United States.

As part of their longstanding pro-life effort, the nation’s Catholic bishops and the grassroots mobilizing network assisting them, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA), have urged Congress in recent years to do two things: maintain longstanding and widely supported policies against federal funding and promotion of abortion, and protect the conscience rights of those who respect human life in our health care system.   

In July, both goals came under attack, from two of the most extreme legislative proposals I have seen in over three decades of public policy work. Their enactment would create a “perfect storm” of policy against unborn human life, pushing pro-life convictions to the margins of public life. Both bills are advanced using titles and slogans that mask what they do.

The first is the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act,” (S. 2578).  It has little to do with either women’s health or “corporate interference.” It’s been called a response to the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which upheld the religious freedom of family-owned businesses that object to covering abortifacient drugs and devices in their health plan. 

The bill’s supporters say they are defending women’s “access” to the contraceptives they want. But as leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference explained in a letter to the Senate, “the bill ranges far beyond that decision, potentially attacking all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom regarding health coverage mandates.”

 

The enactment of two of the most extreme legislative proposals I have seen in over three decades of public policy work would create a “perfect storm” of policy against unborn human life, pushing pro-life convictions to the margins of public life. 

 

The operative text of the bill never mentions contraception. It says that when a federal law or regulation requires inclusion of any item in health plans across the country, that mandate will override “any other provision of federal law” — including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that protected Christian families in the Hobby Lobby case. Such mandates will apply to all kinds of health plans, not just employer plans, and will override everyone’s religious freedom — including the freedom of women themselves, some of whom may not want their health plans promoting “free” late-term abortions, for example, to their minor daughters.

And yet the bill is supported by 58 out of 100 U.S. Senators — all 55 Democrats and three Republicans. It was blocked from coming to the Senate floor in July, but supporters may try again soon.

The other bill, which makes the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion look tame by comparison, is called the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 1696). It would knock down almost every state or federal law that seeks to restrain or regulate abortion, by demanding that the law treat abortion as a routine “women’s health procedure.” The unborn child would be given no greater respect than a decayed tooth or a troublesome tumor.

Is this bill committed to women’s health? Well, it says that even if a pro-life law “significantly advances … the health of women,” it must still be knocked down, unless “clear and convincing evidence” shows there is no way to serve women’s health that is “less restrictive” of abortion. In other words, women’s health is not the goal — maximizing and “mainstreaming” abortion is. Alarmingly, this bill has 36 sponsors and just received a committee hearing.

How can such extreme proposals receive serious attention in what some call “the greatest deliberative body in the world”? One answer is that, in a very politicized mid-term election year, legislators think this is what we constituents want. I hope we will tell them that just isn’t so. For help contacting your elected representatives, see the action alerts at www.nchla.org.

 

Richard M. Doerflinger is associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more on the bishops’ pro-life efforts see www.usccb.org/prolife.


Voices

Jean Beliveau, RIP

REV. RONALD ROLHEISER, OMI

Jean Beliveau was more than an athlete, though certainly he was a one-in-a-million athlete. The record of his achievements almost defies belief. He played in the National Hockey League for 20 seasons and retired with 10 championship rings. 

 

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December 20, 2014

  • Saturday, December 20

    St. Margaret's Center Christmas Program, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Morningside High School (Cafeteria), 10500 S. Yukon Ave, Inglewood. St. Margaret's Center, Inglewood School District, Doorking, Inc., and Centinela Hospital Medical Staff invite you to join them as they create a holiday wonderland with Christmas surprises for more than 1,000 poverty-level children and their parents. (310) 672-2208. Click here for more information.

    Christmas Shop at Holy Grounds, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., St. Monica Catholic Community, 725 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 566-1500.

    Dancing Festival of Lessons and Carols, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Holy Spirit Retreat House, 4316 Lanai Rd., Encino. A concert by Valyermo Dancers & Co., choreographed by John West. $15. Contact Sr. Deborah for more info, (818) 784-4515.

    Christmas Dinner Dance, 6 p.m., Knights of Columbus Hall, 21433 Strathern St, Canoga Park. Tickets, $28. (818) 371-0473.

    Las Posadas, 7 p.m., Parish Hall, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 600 W Mariposa St, Altadena. Posadas means “the inns” or “the shelters” in Spanish. A religious and social celebration, Las Posadas commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for shelter prior to the birth of Christ. We invite you to join us in a one-day celebration of this tradition. (626) 794-2046.

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