The Stupak Amendment isn’t only about trampling on women’s rights and lives, as devastating as that is. It’s also about trampling on their faith and conscience. RCRC’s chief concern about this amendment is that it is encroaching on religious freedom.
To be clear, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops inserted their religious views into the House bill. The members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – Christian and Jewish denominations – and millions of Americans of all faiths do not share the Catholic bishops’ doctrine on reproductive issues and do not want the bishops’ views to determine how they live their lives.
Virtually all religious denominations that have taken a position on health care reform have agreed it should be abortion neutral – that is, it should not change existing policy on abortion coverage. Clearly, the Catholic bishops’ group is not willing to honor that position. So let’s call this "compromise" what it is: an encroachment on the separation of religion and state and an affront to a basic constitutional principle. The fact that the Catholic hierarchy can dictate what Congress can legislate should be disturbing to all Americans, regardless of their position on abortion or contraception.
President Obama said on Monday that he wanted to adjust the abortion language in the health care bill so that "neither side feels that it’s being betrayed." But this push for “common ground” on abortion is partly responsible for the House of Representatives’ retreat on women’s health care – along with the Democratic Party’s recruitment of pro-life candidates. Common ground is a misleading term. The Catholic bishops and their allies never ceded any ground. The Democratic Party has a lot to answer for in terms of pushing back women’s rights.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California stated the issue clearly in floor debate on the House health care bill: "We’re a democracy, not a theocracy." If the Stupak Amendment is the beginning of a trend, the Catholic bishops may be dictating policy on a number of social issues.