By Chris Korzen
Self-proclaimed pro-life groups with close ties to the Republican Party are spending millions of dollars in a deceitful attempt to defeat pro-life members of Congress who voted for health care reform. People of faith who believe in a consistent ethic of life should be outraged and stand up for their values.
My organization, Catholics United, recently launched an unprecedented campaign to organize and inform constituents in several congressional districts where Members of Congress are being targeted by the Susan B. Anthony List, the Family Research Council and the National Right to Life Committee. These groups falsely claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides federal funding for elective abortions, even though the Catholic Health Association, a bevy of health-care policy experts, and independent analysts have repeatedly debunked this abortion-funding myth.
The religious right will point to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ opposition to health care reform as evidence that abortion funding concerns were not addressed in the final legislation. However, the USCCB’s opinion was based on a misunderstanding of the bill’s abortion funding provisions. Furthermore, last week the bishops issued a statement commending the Obama administration for upholding the ban on federal funding of abortion following false accusations – made by the National Right to Life Committee and the Family Research Council – that a high risk insurance pool in Pennsylvania contained $160 million in federal funding for abortion.
So why are these groups ignoring the facts and attacking pro-life Democrats who worked tirelessly to ensure that health care reform prohibited abortion funding? Because their campaign is really about winning back GOP control of Congress. Targeted Members of Congress – Ohio Representatives John Boccieri and Steve Driehaus, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper and Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia – are Catholics who hold seats in districts with high percentages of pro-life voters. Making sure these voters believe their Representatives betrayed the pro-life cause is a key component of the Republicans’ election strategy.
By perpetuating the abortion-funding myth, these organizations are not only sacrificing honesty on the altar of political expedience, but also working to undermine legislation the pro-life community should embrace as an unmitigated victory. In addition to expanding health coverage to millions of Americans, the health care reform law creates programs that provide needed supports for pregnant women and new mothers. It also mandates coverage of prenatal care and bans insurers from labeling pregnancy a pre-existing condition. In addition to making needed care affordable and accessible, such policies address the root causes of abortion. Pro-life health care supporters like Rep. Dahlkemper know that embracing a whole life agenda includes health care for all, and economic and social support for those who need it most. Despite absorbing the brunt of the smear campaign, Dahlkemper is adamantly defending her vote for health care reform. People of faith, and Catholics in particular, should admire her unabashed commitment to the common-good values that lie at the heart of the Christian tradition. Dahlkemper’s allies in the faith community can now sign an open letter in support of her voting record on jobs, Wall Street reform, health care, and other common-good issues. We’ll soon be launching similar efforts elsewhere.
Americans are tired of dirty politics. What we desperately want are results. It’s time for people of faith to push back against those who misuse the language of religion for political gain, and reward leaders who work hard to promote the common good.
Chris Korzen, Executive Director, Catholics United