The recent passage of an anti-choice amendment as part of the House health care bill has many asking whether Catholic bishops have been appointed an honorary seat in Congress. The amendment – proposed by Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak – severely restricts access to abortion in both the public option and any private plan purchased with the help of government subsidies. Anti-choicers claim this is simply a restatement of the Hyde amendment which prohibits any federal funds from going towards abortions. Pro-choicers argue this severely restricts access, particularly for poor women who will be more reliant on the public plan. In the long run, this could also affect holders of private insurance as more and more private companies jockey to enter the public exchange. Off little to no debate, however, is the role that the Catholic bishops played in making sure that abortion played a prominent role in health care reform deliberations. The Wall Street Journal reports on the numerous meetings between lobbyists from U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Speaker Pelosi. The bishops also distributed talking points and fliers to individual priests to rally grassroots support. According to the WSJ, “Democratic leaders had hoped that a narrower compromise prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions might win over antiabortion lawmakers, whose support was vital to passing the House bill. When the bishops made it clear in the final hours that they wouldn’t support the compromise, and would oppose the entire bill if it were adopted, more Democrats took notice”. Read the article here.
And in related news, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is out there touting his own Catholic credentials. Gingrich was never one to spout off about religion, that is, until recently. Dana Milbank at The Washington Post recaps a talk given by Gingerich Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute (entitled The Victory of the Cross: How Spiritual Renewal Helped Topple the Berlin Wall ) in which Gingrich says, “There is a secular-left model of reality which cannot tolerate the thought that state control fails, that tyranny is evil and that a liberated human being whose rights come from God is the centerpiece of the human future”…This is just the latest effort to shore up the religious right vote by a man who has already kowtowed to James Dobson on his radio program and published a book about the centrality of God in America. Milbank cuts right to the quick, “Gingrich is calculating that everything will get easier for him politically as a religious conservative.” And there’s no better word than calculating in this case.