I’d like to turn our focus away from Planned Parenthood and on to the Catholic Bishops.
As I’m sure you know, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops persuaded Congress nearly single-handedly this weekend to add an amendment to the House health care bill that essentially bars insurance companies participating in government sponsored “insurance exchanges” from covering abortions. That’s right, they’ve succeeded in their push to interject their religious doctrine into America’s health care legislation.
I will be working with many others to try to get this language is stripped from the bill before it makes it to the President’s desk. It would be appalling if this fairly modest reform of health care has come at the expense of women’s reproductive rights. Last I checked, Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, which means this bill is cutting off access to a legal health procedure in most of the nation’s insurance plans.
But for a moment, let’s just put aside the abortion discussion and the horrific fact that the Catholic Church was willing to kill health care for the sick and poor if the Democrats didn’t give them this amendment. What many people are now questioning is how one religious group can be such a lobbying powerhouse and not have to abide by any of the same standards and requirements as other tax-exempt organizations do when they operate on Capitol Hill.
As executive director of a tax-exempt group myself, I know our lobbyists have to meet certain strict requirements to be able to do their job. I also know that religious organizations, also tax-exempt groups, have no such requirements. It’s a free-for-all for these groups, and they are using the benefit of their tax exemption to fund strong lobbying arms.
After all, no one elected the Catholic Bishops to Congress. They’re not even representing the 68 percent of Catholics who say the church would be wrong to oppose the entire health-care reform plan merely because it includes coverage for abortion. In fact, a recent poll taken by Catholics for Choice shows that most Catholics support abortion coverage in health care reform, especially in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality. So how is it possible that the Catholic Bishops have determined what Americans as a whole want in health care reform?
I think it’s time we reconsider these laws regulating the lobbying done by religious institutions. This recent development shows unparalleled arrogance on the part of church officials. Is there really any reason why they should not be subjected to the same rules and regulations as every other tax-exempt organization on the Hill? What do you think, Jay?
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