While 59,000 liberal Catholic nuns break with bishops to support health care, despite the bill's favor of abortion, the leading pro-life Democrat congressman says he's experiencing 'a living hell.'
UPDATE 3/19/20: Correction - the LEADERSHIP of an organization that CLAIMS 59,000 nuns has signed on to ObamaCare
UPDATE 3/18/10: Conservative nuns back bishops, oppose ObamaCare, counter liberal nuns
-- From "Stupak: It’s been ‘a living hell’" by Jeffrey Young and Bob Cusack, The Hill 3/18/10
Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation over abortion has been a “living hell” for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).
The telephone lines in his Washington and district offices have been “jammed” and he’s gotten more than 1,500 faxes and countless e-mails — most of which he says don’t come from his constituents.
The fight has taken a toll on his wife, who has disconnected the phone in their home to avoid harassment.
“All the phones are unplugged at our house — tired of the obscene calls and threats. She won’t watch TV,” Stupak said during an hourlong interview with The Hill in his Rayburn office. “People saying they’re going to spit on you and all this. That’s just not fun.”
Stupak has become a nationally known figure because of his demands for tough language in healthcare legislation to prevent any federal subsidies from being used for abortion services.
“It’s caused a lot of internal conflict. ‘Am I doing the right thing,’ you know?” he said. “I believe everyone should have healthcare. In all my correspondence — I’ve been saying for years — it’s a right, not a privilege.”
Stupak has never signed up for federal health benefits because he promised voters in 1992 that he wouldn’t until universal healthcare was enacted.
But in the end, the abortion issue has trumped other concerns. “It’s a belief for me, so it’s easier to do. And it’s a belief for my district, so I guess it’s easier to do,” he said.
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From "Catholic opposition to health bill fades" by Susan Milligan, Boston Globe Staff 3/18/10
Roman Catholic opposition to the health care overhaul package is crumbling, with some church officials and lawmakers concluding that their long-sought goal of health care overhaul trumps the desire to adopt the severest restrictions on abortion funding.
A coalition of 59,000 nuns released a letter yesterday calling on Congress to approve the overhaul, defying the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes the measure. The Catholic Health Association, which represents 1,200 Catholic hospitals, has endorsed the package, as have Catholics United and Catholic groups promoting social justice.
That split mirrors a division among some antiabortion US representatives. In preparing to cast perhaps one of the most important votes on a domestic issue in their careers, they are wrestling with questions that strike at the core of their beliefs and that threaten to embolden voters in November.
Ardently antiabortion Representative Dale Kildee, a Michigan Democrat who once studied in a Catholic seminary, said yesterday he will vote for the package despite language that some believe is not strict enough in ensuring that no federal funds are used for abortions.
Another antiabortion Catholic lawmaker, Representative James Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota, said he is likely to vote for it. Several other antiabortion lawmakers are undecided but say they will not let the abortion issue sway their votes.
The political fissure among prominent Catholics has buoyed the hopes of Democratic leaders that they will be able to enlist enough votes to approve a health care bill this weekend. Abortion has been a central issue in the debate and could make the difference in a close vote.
“Health care is a central theme in the teaching of Catholic social justice," said Representative Richard E. Neal, a Springfield Democrat and Catholic with a moderately antiabortion voting record. “This chance will not avail itself for another decade, and the status quo is unacceptable."
New England Democratic Representatives Stephen Lynch of Boston and James Langevin of Rhode Island joined Neal in voting for the stricter “Stupak amendment" in the House. Lynch and Langevin said they will not let abortion decide their votes.
And while abortion is a fundamental moral issue for the Catholic Church, the commitment to providing health care to everyone “is a pretty strong belief" among Catholics as well, Langevin added.
Antiabortion groups such as the National Right to Life Committee and Americans United for Life have persistently and aggressively lobbied against the Senate version, arguing that it provides a back-door way for federal funding of abortions. Senate Republicans have scheduled a news conference today to slam the health care package for its abortion provisions.
The conference of bishops opposes the current language, saying it defies the church’s deep beliefs that no federal funds should be used for any program that allows abortion. But the moral struggle in the choice between passing universal health care and fighting abortion funding is evident in the bishops’ letter to lawmakers.
. . . the bishops have been less assertive recently in their lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, several lawmakers said, a dramatic change from late last year, when they were helping to write the abortion language in the House bill.
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