Catholic bishops reject Casey's abortion compromise

Sen. Robert Casey's (D-Pa.) proposed compromise on abortion coverage in the Senate health bill fall short, U.S. Catholic Bishops said Friday.

Galveston-Houston Archbishop Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, rejected the compromise language Casey has been working to craft on the bill's federal support for purchasing insurance plans covering abortions.

“I welcome Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to improve this bill," DiNardo said in a statment. "However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them."

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Abortion has been a key hangup in winning Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) vote as the 60th Democrat for health reform in the Senate. Nelson said Thursday that he wouldn't support cloture for the bill unless his concerns on abortion and other issues were met.

Casey unveiled his abortion language on Friday afternoon, touting support from a number of faith-based groups, including the Catholic Health Association, Evangelicals for Social Action, and the National Hispanic Leadership Conference.

The Casey proposal would assure segregate private premiums from taxpayer subsidies for plans, and allowing individuals to opt out from their premiums going to subsidize plans covering abortions.

The Catholic bishops had been instrumental in working to attach Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) amendment curtailing support for abortion coverage to the House bill. A similar amendment failed to muster the votes in the Senate. Casey's proposal is an attempt to bridge the current legislation and the Stupak language.