Why do these two sentences, in a report by New York Times health writers Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn which appears in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, send chills down my spine?
Nelson (Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops , said Thursday that they could not accept Casey’s (Sen Bob Casey, D-Pa) initial proposal, in part because they saw money from the government and premiums as fungible.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the bishops’ anti-abortion committee said, ‘We continue to oppose, and urge others to oppose, the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied.’
A more recent report on NYTimes.com says Nelson will now support the bill, since it includes tighter restrictions on abortion coverage. I assume if it’s okay with Senator Nelson it’s okay with USCCB.
In the mid-1970s I had a friend I will call Sara, a 19-year-old single mom working hard to raise an infant daughter, who found herself pregnant with a probably defective potential baby. She saw no way to care for her existing child without a job — the pregnancy would cost her her job — let alone care for an unplanned and unwanted new child with special needs. Her church gave her no choice. She managed to have an abortion in fairly sterile circumstances, but because she was part of a small Catholic congregation she remained terrified for years afterward that she would be found out and condemned to hell. I remember thinking how sad it was that she could not seek comfort and support from her close-knit faith community.
I am fine with Sara’s beliefs and honor her for that struggle. I am not fine with having the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops determine health policy for all of us. And I wonder how many Saras will be denied proper care because the USCCB believes that some embryonic cells are more important than the right of a woman to control her own body. It remains to be seen if the bill passes, and what sliver of abortion coverage survives, but the tragedies of back-alley abortions, which I know from personal experiences and which the bishops cannot even begin to fathom, are quite likely to return.
What happened to that quaint notion of separation of church and state?