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Against Abortion Rights, For Health Reform

As many of you know, the controversy over abortion rights has been threatening to undermine health care reform. And a big reason is the actions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have steadfastly opposed reform because, they claim, it would allow for federal funding of abortion. Democrats who oppose abortion rights or represent districts with lots of voters who oppose abortion rights have been reluctant to cross the Bishops on this matter. Many have said they won’t support a bill without stronger abortion restrictions.

The Bishops aren’t the only authority on the matter, though. On a conference call Thursday, a number of Catholic and evangelical groups that oppose abortion rights voiced their support for the Senate’s most recent version of the bill, saying that it clearly will not allow for federal funding to pay for abortions.

“The Stupak amendment is not the only way to prevent federal funding of abortion,” said Morna Murray, the president of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. “We are confident this life-affirming bill maintains long-standing restrictions on federal funding of abortion.”

A letter that the groups sent to members of Congress last week details all the abortion-related provisions of the Senate bill. It highlights language that allows insurance companies to decide whether or not to include abortion services in plans offered through the new state insurance exchanges; it also highlights language prohibiting insurance companies from using federal funding to pay for abortion services. People enrolled in a plan through a state exchange who want abortion coverage will be required to pay separately for the cost of the additional coverage.

Members of the groups, which included Evangelicals for Social Action, NETWORK, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, said that these provisions and others in the bill ensure that it is consistent with a pro-life philosophy.

Murray also praised the $250 million appropriated by the bill over 10 years for programs that support vulnerable women who choose to have their babies.

This comes in a week when other Catholic groups have broken with the Bishops and voiced their support for health care reform, most notably the Catholic Health Association, which released a statement on Monday in support of the bill.

Two congressmen who oppose abortion rights, Rep. Dale Kildee (MI-5) and Rep. Charlie Wilson (OH-6), also reiterated their support of the bill on the conference call. “I’m confident that the senate language upholds my values,” Wilson said.

Kildee, who spent 6 years studying to be a priest and turns 81 in September, said that he was satisfied with the abortion language of the current bill and that he wasn’t about to support any bill that funds abortion. “I’m not going to change my mind and support abortion,” Kildee said. “I’m not going to jeopardize my eternal salvation.”