Catholic bishops oppose health care plan over abortion language

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Monday it opposes the Democratic health care plan heading for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives because of its language on abortion.

The group noted that it liked the House health care bill because it would continue the strict ban on federal financing of abortion. But it said the Senate version would open the door to federal financing, and it is the Senate version heading to the House for a vote.

Senate Democrats have insisted their bill would not allow federal financing of abortion, but George and the Catholic group disagreed.

"The Catholic bishops regretfully hold that it must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed," said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the president of the conference.

He noted that some have said the language on abortion might be changed later, after the bill is signed into law.

"Assurances that the moral objections to the legislation can be met only after the bill is passed seem a little like asking us, in Midwestern parlance, to buy a pig in a poke," George said.

The Catholic bishops have lobbied for a health care plan to extend insurance to the uninsured — but only if it maintains the longstanding U.S. policy against federal financing of abortion..

"Their experience in health care and in Catholic parishes has acquainted them with the anguish of mothers who are unable to afford prenatal care, of families unable to ensure quality care for their children, and of those who cannot obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions," George said.

"They have urged that all who are sick, injured or in need receive necessary and appropriate medical assistance, and that no one be deliberately killed through an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion."

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