Roman Catholic bishops are launching a massive e-mail campaign opposing the sweeping health care reform plan being proposed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress, because they say it will allow federal funds to pay for abortions.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Activities Secretariat is encouraging all archdioceses and parishes in the U.S. to send a pre-written e-mail that urges House members to oppose any rule that will not allow debate on an amendment that would prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used for abortions, and to send another e-mail to senators to support the amendment.
"If the serious pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed," the pre-written e-mail reads. "Genuine health care reform should protect the life and dignity of all people from the moment of conception until natural death."
The offensive comes more than a year after the archbishop of Washington rebuked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her assertion that the Catholic Church has not been consistent on its position against abortion and that human life begins at conception. At the same time, the archbishop of Denver warned then-vice presidential candidate Joe Biden not to take Communion.
Pelosi met privately with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican earlier this year.
Obama's health care plan has sparked alarm among Republicans and conservative Democrats who say that without an explicit prohibition on federal funding for abortion, it could be included in taxpayer-subsidized coverage offered through the plan.
Catholic leaders have asked bishops across the nation to insert the e-mail, titled "Oppose Abortion Funding and Mandates in Health Care Reform," in every parish bulletin or distribute it in pews or at church entrances.
"Congressional votes may take place as soon as early November," Tom Grenchik, secretariat of pro-life activities for the USCCB, wrote to diocesan pro-life directors and the state Catholic conference director.
"If your Arch/bishop is not in agreement with disseminating the bulletin insert, you will be hearing from his office immediately," Grenchik added.
The Supreme Court established in 1973 that women have the right to have an abortion, but federal law prohibits government funds from being used to pay for the procedure in most cases. Nearly 90 percent of employer-based private insurance plans routinely cover abortion.
The Democratic health overhaul plan envisions setting up a new health insurance marketplace through which individuals and businesses could get coverage similar to what's now available for employees of large companies. Abortion rights supporters say prohibiting plans in the new market from covering the procedure would be taking away a right that women now have.