You asked me:

“Would you have criticized the Catholic Church if it had OPPOSED the Stupak/Pitts Amendment and it failed to clear the House?”

Here’s my answer:  Of course not.  I think everyone should support the Constitution. In this case, the Catholic bishops have stripped more than half of all Americans of their constitutional rights. If the bishops had upheld the rights of all Americans, I’d be applauding their actions.   

Instead, they decided to push their narrow religious viewpoint on the rest of us. That’s why I spent yesterday morning on a panel of religious leaders who, like me, opposed the bishops’ amendment. This press conference at the National Press Club brought together Catholic, Protestant and Jewish organizations to call on the U.S. Senate not to include the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the Senate version of the bill.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, made an interesting point. He said, “[T]here are only 200 bishops in decision-making positions in the U.S. church. Sadly, these 200 are often referred to as the ‘Catholic church.’ This is far from the case. The Catholic church in the United States is made up of all 68 million Catholics and all of the Catholic institutions.

“A majority of American Catholics,” he continued, “think that reproductive health care services should be covered in any eventual reform of the U.S. health care system — including pre- and postnatal care for women, contraception, condom provision as part of HIV/AIDS prevention, and yes, even abortion.

“A small minority of Catholics, fewer than 15 percent, are in line with the bishops in believing that all abortion should be banned,” he concluded. “The rest can see circumstances in which legal abortion is an acceptable, even essential, aspect of health care.”

Other speakers at the press conference included leaders from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, Catholics for Choice, National Council of Jewish Women and the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

All of us came together because we agree on one thing: there is a lot at stake here. This amendment threatens not only the rights of women, but also hinders the religious freedom of all Americans who do not want to see the theological  views of any group imposed on every one of us. 

I said it last week on this blog, I said it yesterday at the press conference, and I’ll say it again now: it would be better to dump the entire bill than to allow it to become law with these noxious provisions intact. It saddens me to say this, and that is why I hope it never has to reach that point. There is still time for the Senate to do the right thing, and I urge them to keep this amendment out of their version of the bill.

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