“Morals” and “Faith” Far From Monolithic on Abortion, Stupak Amendment and Health Reform

Robin Marty

A backlash is growing against recent effort by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to impose ultra-conservative Catholic ideology on U.S. public health policy and women's rights as a growing number of faith leaders speak out.

In the wake of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, much attention has been paid to the pressure placed on key congress people by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who rallied to have abortion rights rolled back as part of health care reform.  But the religious institutions are not a monolithic entity, and as the magnitude of the impact Stupak-Pitts would have on health care is realized, more and more faith leaders are speaking out against it.

Minnpost, a Minnesota-based online news site, reports that key figures in the religious pro-choice movement are beginning to move their members to ensure their voices are heard as well.   Kelli Clement, co-chair of the Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice , leads the call:

No person I’ve ever known thinks that abortion is something a woman wants to do. It’s a terribly difficult choice. It’s a sacred choice. But no one chooses for you. No church. No insurance company and certainly the Congress shouldn’t get to choose for me.

"I want lawmakers to uphold their oaths," said Clement. "I want them to uphold the rights of other people. Abortion is a legal form of medical care. It’s federally protected. I want it supported."

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Backlash in Minnesota isn’t coming just from pro-choice religious groups, but from politicians as well.  Former Minnesota State Senator Dave Durenberger spoke scathingly on the National Institute of Health Policy site regarding what he sees as an overstep of the Catholic Bishops authority in pushing the amendment into the health care reform debate.

"As a Catholic Republican," stated Durenberger, "I am puzzled by the way in which mere mortals can shift the moral priorities of a Church over what, for a 2,000-year-old religion, is a relatively short period of time. As a new member of the U.S. Senate, I stood proudly with my Church in opposition to the expansion of the nuclear arms race, in definition of a just war, in efforts to reduce racial and economic discrimination and enact historic civil rights legislation.

How did a national law to prevent insurance companies, whose premium costs are defrayed in part by tax subsidies, from providing medical services related to abortion get to be a higher public priority for all Americans, not just Catholics, than financing access to health care services? Especially when it is unlikely this law will have that great an impact on the number of abortions performed in this country."

As more people continue to speak out against the role the Catholic Bishops had in instituting this extremely flawed amendment, will we see it removed from the health care debate?  Only time will tell.

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