I’m not the Pope

November 19th, 2009

Has the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gone completely insane?

Only a few weeks ago, it single-handedly almost derailed the entire health care reform movement. Using the House’s health care reform legislation as leverage, the bishops said that they would withdraw their support of it unless Congress tightened its restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions. And their blackmail worked.

Under the original legislation, citizens who received government funds to subsidize their health insurance would not have been able to use those funds to pay for abortions, although nongovernment funds like premiums and co-payments could’ve been used to do so. This provision would’ve been sufficient enough to protect the moral accountability of taxpayers who oppose abortion.

But pressure from the bishops forced many conservative Democrats to reject that provision and, instead, to add an amendment that completely blocks the use of federal subsidies to buy any insurance plans that cover abortion. The final bill passed the House by a mere five votes, and as the debate now moves to the Senate, the push for health care reform could be completely jeopardized by the bishops’ bullheaded tactics.

But this country desperately needs a system of universal health care. Lower and middle-class families like mine deserve affordable health insurance, and if the Conference of Catholic Bishops ruins the nation’s chances of achieving that, then it will be directly responsible for the thousands of deaths resulting from another decade or more without universal health care. If that happens, will the bishops still legitimately be able to claim that they’re promoting a “pro-life” agenda?

This instance, however, is just another example of how the Church hierarchy continuously attempts to strong-arm society into accepting its anti-abortion doctrine. It’s not that I disagree with its teaching on abortion, but the stubborn way it goes about promoting its agenda makes it seem unsympathetic to the many demographic and economic factors involved in the abortion debate.

For example, women living in poverty are up to four times more likely to have an abortion than women who are not. Half of all U.S. women who have an abortion are younger than 25-years-old. And black and Hispanic women are much more likely to have an abortion than white women.

There are, however, other methods the Church could promote that could reduce abortions. Here’s one: embrace contraception. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that a decline in the number and rate of abortions performed worldwide correlated with a growth in global contraceptive use. But the Vatican teaches that while it’s morally acceptable to intentionally avoid pregnancy naturally through the “rhythm method,” it’s immoral to use “artificial” birth control – aka contraception. Does anyone else see the inherent flaw in this argument? If the Church were to reconsider its stance on contraception, it could potentially result in a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the United States.

I, however, am not the Pope. I’m just an ordinary member of the Catholic Church who has no say in what my Church decides to do.