Faith Leaders Support Casey Alternative

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) proposal for alternative abortion language, as well as additional positive support for pregnant women, met with widespread praise today from health policy and faith groups, as well as faith leaders around the country.  Leaders and groups endorsing the alternative include: the Catholic Health Association; Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners; Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action; Rev. Richard Cizik; Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church and the National Hispanic Leadership Conference.

“We have worked long and hard to develop meaningful language that would meet the requirements of long-standing prohibitions on federal funding of abortion and apply it to the new structures created in health care reform,” said Senator Casey.  “While I cosponsored and voted for the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment, it was defeated in the Senate.  I was determined not to give up, but to find another way and I believe we have.  Additionally, it was critically important to me to include positive support for vulnerable pregnant women, which the research clearly shows is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions.” 

Casey’s proposal strengthens the previous abortion language in the Senate version of health care reform in several ways. It:

•    Addresses federal funding of abortion in the Exchange by assuring segregation of private premium funds from federal taxpayer subsidies, with segregation of funds conducted by insurance companies which will have annual audits by state Commissions of Insurance. 

•    Provides strong conscience protections by requiring no discrimination against an individual health care provider or health care facility because of its unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of or refer for abortions;

•    Removes assured availability provisions that would have mandated abortion by requiring one plan with abortion and one plan without abortion in every exchange;

•    Provides conscience protection to individuals with an individual opt-out of abortion coverage – providing that no portion of any premiums paid by individuals opting out of abortion coverage may be used to fund or cover abortion.

Additionally, Senator Casey was successful in adding two significant provisions to the Senate language that will help reduce the number of abortions and support adoption: 

•    Creation of a Pregnancy Assistance Fund that will be initially funded at $250 million over 10 years, providing states with funding to help pregnant and parenting teens and college students with assistance for such basic necessities as child care, housing, education and more.  Funding will also assist pregnant victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and other sexual crimes; 

•    The Adoption Tax Credit is increased by $1,000 for the next two years and is refundable. This increases federal support for adoption by $1.2 billion over the next two years.

The underlying health care reform bill provides new preventive services at no cost, including prenatal care and preventive care for newborns.  Senator Casey is also fighting hard to preserve the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a 12-year success story that has provided coverage to over 7 million low income children and is on track to cover a total of 14.1 million children by 2013.  With the Casey amendment to assist vulnerable pregnant women, along with the numerous supports for pregnant women and their children in the underlying health care bill and in CHIP, we can provide a seamless network of support and services from the time a woman becomes pregnant until the time her child reaches adulthood. 

“It is critical to maintain restrictions on federal funding of abortion.  But we must also focus on the needs of vulnerable pregnant women and do all we can to assist them at a time when they may find themselves alone and without support,” said Senator Casey.  “For far too long, our focus on reducing the number of abortions has emphasized federal funding prohibitions.  I support and will always support federal funding prohibitions.  But we must do more if we truly want to reduce the number of abortions in this country.  The time has come for us to provide support and assistance to the most vulnerable of pregnant women.  In the long run, supporting and empowering pregnant women is the best way to reduce the number of abortions.”

Casey’s proposal has been hailed by multiple health and faith groups, including Catholic Health Association, Evangelicals for Social Action, Sojourners, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, National Hispanic Leadership Conference, NETWORK, National Conference of Women Religious. 

Faith leaders who have signed on to a national letter of support for Casey’s proposal include: Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners; Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action; Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church;  Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Rev. Richard Cizik; Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and Stephen Schneck, PhD, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America. 

A copy of the national letter of support is attached. 

The statement released by the Catholic Health Association is below.


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CATHOLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES STATEMENT

COMMENT REGARDING PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT OF 2009
WASHINGTON, DC (December 17, 2009) – The following statement is being released by Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive office of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):

The Catholic Health Association is pleased to learn of the work being done to improve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009. As we understand it, the Senate intends to keep the President’s commitment that no federal funds will pay for abortions and in addition, provide significant new support for pregnant women.

While we have yet to see the manager’s amendment or Senator Robert Casey’s final abortion amendment language, we are encouraged by recent deliberations and the outline Senator Casey is developing. It is our understanding that the language now being written would prohibit federal funding of abortion, ensure provider conscience protection and fund programs to provide supportive care to some of the most vulnerable pregnant women in our society.

Especially now that a public health insurance option is no longer on the table, we are increasingly confident that Senator Casey’s language can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion. We urge Congress to continue its work toward the goal of health reform that protects life at all stages while expanding coverage to the greatest possible number of people in our country. We look forward to reviewing the final language these improvements contemplate.

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