Bishops oppose healthcare bill

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confirmed its opposition today to the healthcare reform bill making it's way through the House, arguing it's too lenient on abortion.

"The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected," said Cardinal Francis George, USCCB president.

"However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve," he added.

At issue is how strict provisions should be restricting funding for abortions. The previous House-passed bill included language authored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that disallowed any federal subsidies from being spent on plans that cover abortion. The Senate bill, meanwhile, would allow subsidies to be spent on such plans as long as a sperate fee is paid to cover the abortion coverage.

A number or pro-life Democrats in the House, including Stupak, have pledged to vote against the weaker Senate version when it comes up for a vote.

"This is not quibbling over technicalities," Cardinal George said. "The deliberate omission in the Senate Bill of the necessary language that could have taken this moral question off the table and out of play leaves us still looking for a way to meet the President’s and our concern to provide health care for those millions whose primary care physician is now an emergency room doctor."