The price tag of the House measure, which is double the size of the originally estimated $900 billion, will be of tremendous concern to the Senate. It's like the stimulus bill, we need comprehensive health care reform, but do we need what the House passed? I think not.
It is certainly good news that Rep. Stupak's amendment, explicitly prohibiting federal funding for abortion, was approved as part of the House measure, though no member of the Democratic leadership was willing to say they would fight to keep it in the conference committee negotiations. Contra uncle Teddy's dishonest niece, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, writing in Newsweek: prior to the enactment of the so-called Stupak amendment there was not language in the bill prohibiting the use of federal funding for abortions. I find it appallingly contradictory, not mention morally confused, that in the same article and apparently with a straight face Kennedy Townsend argues for the need to lower infant mortality rates in the U.S. AND for making abortion more widely available, stating with regard to abortion that she considers herself "pro-conscience". "Women," she writes in a frightening display of newspeak, "do not make the decision to have an abortion lightly, but it is absolutely critical that they have the means to make this decision and access to the care they need, no matter what their choice. Anything less would be turning the clock back on the progress we have made on advancing women's health!" Like her cousin, who earned a robust rebuke from his bishop, she has the audacity to call the bishops out for insisting that health care reform not expand access to abortion. As Bishop Tobin pointed out to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who he called an embarrassment and a disappointment, the U.S. bishops have been advocating for health care reform long before it became the political issue du jour. As regards the Stupak amendment, 194 Democrats voted against it, thus leaving 64 Democrats voting for it. Of the 177 Republican House members, 176 voted for it, with one member voting present. Some 41 Democrats wrote to Speaker Pelosi threatening to vote against the bill if the Stupak amendment passed! In the end, they voted for the bill amendment and all, but no doubt this effort contributed to the ambivalence of the Democratic leadership in staunchly supporting the amendment through conference committee negotiations should the Senate pass a bill, too.
While it may have been a shrewd and even necessary political move back in 1960, JFK's speech in Houston to a group of Protestant ministers is not the place to start when trying to articulate the role faith plays in governance, but Kennedy Townsend seems to think it is. Most people in the U.S. are not in favor of what the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus dubbed "the naked public square." As John Paul II taught so fervently for the years of his pontificate: freedom divorced from the truth is not freedom, it is dangerous, especially for society's most vulnerable members. Besides, to check one's most cherished beliefs at the door of the chamber of power is not even human because it is an act against both reason and conscience. By contrast, Reps. Bart Stupak and Anh Joseph Cao stand as a bright examples of acting in accord with reason and conscience, of honorable service to their constituents and, hence, to their country.
While I am on the subject of bishops in the public square, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York takes on anti-Catholicism in the news media in a blog post simply titled Anti-Catholicism.