By Fr. George Welzbacher
September 13, 2009
The zealots for the Culture of Death and the champions of the Culture of Life are engaged in a battle that is getting fiercer by the day. In witness whereof may I present three recent, highly perceptive reports. The first is a bulletin from the U.S. Right to Life Committee in Washington, D. C., dealing with the proposed legislation for national health care reform, legislation whose language, sometimes ambiguous, sometimes explicit, would open wide the door to the federal subsidizing of abortion on demand. The second report, a front page story in the September first edition of the New York Times, addresses an important lawsuit currently being argued before the Montana State Supreme Court. The plaintiff claims a right under the Montana State Constitution to demand a physician's assistance in achieving a pain-free suicide. A Montana Supreme Court ruling favorable to the plaintiff is thought to be likely. The third report offers comment on the deep division within a politically prominent Catholic family on the issue of an unborn child's right to life, the sort of division that, sad to say, is not unknown in many a Catholic home today. This report, an Op-Ed essay in the Pioneer Press for September the third, contrasts the pro- Life views of Eunice Kennedy Shriver with those of her brother, Senator Edward ("Ted") Kennedy, a committed partisan of a woman's right to kill her child .
* * * * *Key Points on Pro-Abortion Provisions in Obama- Backed Health Care Bills
By National Right to Life Committee, Wash. D. C.
Both of the health care bills backed by -the Obama: - White House-H.R. 3200 in the House, and the "Affordable Health Choices Act" (unnumbered) in the Senate-create two big new federal programs that would cover ABORTION FOR ANY REASON. (1) a national health insurance program that would be run entirely by the federal government, called the "public plan" or "public option," and (2) a huge new program to provide subsidies to help tens of millions of Americans buy health insurance.
BOTH BILLS WILL RESULT IN GOVERNMENT FUNDING OF ABORTION. As the independent FactCheck.org reported in an August 21, 2009, analysis: "Despite what President Obama said, the House bill WOULD allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans." FactCheck.org also wrote: "[Mr.] Obama has said in the past that 'reproductive services' would be covered by his public plan, so it's likely that any new federal insurance plan would cover abortion unless Congress expressly prohibits that. Low-and moderate- income persons who would choose the 'public plan' would qualify for federal subsidies to purchase it [abortion]. Private plans that cover abortion also could be purchased with the help of federal subsidies." This is also true of the Senate bill.
Abortion is explicitly mentioned 17 times in the current House bill. On July 30, the Democrat-
controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee added to H.R. 3200 an amendment written by staff to Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) and offered by Rep. Lois Capps ( D-Ca.), both of whom have consistently pro-abortion career voting records. This "phony compromise" amendment explicitly authorizes the "public plan" to cover ALL abortions. This means that any citizen who wants to take advantage of the public plan will be compelled to purchase coverage for abortion on demand. Furthermore, the Capps Amendment explicitly REQUIRES the federal agency to raise EVERY enrollee's premium by an amount sufficient to pay for all the abortions paid for by the agency. So: a federal agency will collect the premium money (which, once collected, becomes public funds and federal ftmds), will receive bills from abortionists, and will send the abortionists payment checks drawn on a federal Treasury account. This is clearly government funding of abortion-the federal government would be running a nationwide insurance plan covering abortion on demand.
The abortion coverage would NOT be opdonal-NO citizen would be allowed to enroll in the federal insurance program WITHOUT paying the abortion surcharge. As Time magazine accurately reported (August 24): 'The problem is that ALL those who sign up for the PUBLIC option would have to pay into the account for abortion coverage an amount 'not less than $1 per month,' according to the legislation. So in effect, ANYONE who wanted to sign up for the public option, a federally funded and administered program, would find themselves paying for abortion coverage."
The current "Hyde Amendment" law [which forbids the use of Medicare funds as payment for abortion] would NOT apply to the NEW premium subsidy program. Through a funding pipeline that would not be subject to the Hyde Amendment, which is a year-to-year provision that currently prevents federal funding of abortions in the Medicaid program. As the Associated Press accurately reported in its August 5, 2009, analysis: "A law called the Hyde amendment applies the [abortion] restrictions to Medicaid... [But] the health overhaul would create a stream of federal funding NOT covered by the restrictions."
The proposed provisions are a radical departure from the status quo. Currently, the federal government does not pay into any health plans that cover elective abortion, and the federal government certainly currently does not run a national abortion insurance program. Time magazine reported (August 24, 2009): "The health-care reform proposed by House Democrats, if enacted, would in fact mark a significant change in the Federal Government's role in the financing of abortions."
In FOUR congressional committees, pro-abortion Democratic committee chairmen and majorities, allied with the White House, REJECTED amendments to keep elective abortion OUT of the "public plan" and to prevent federal subsidies from going to private plans that cover elective abortion.
Under the Senate bill, there is an additional problem: Both the "public plan" and, in time, most private insurance plans, would be required to cover all "essential benefits." These must include (but are not limited to) ambulatory patient services, hospitalization, and preventive services. Under numerous past federal court decisions, such broad categories will include elective abortion unless Congress adds an explicit exclusion for abortion-but the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee rejected such an exclusion. Thus under the Senate bill, many PRIVATE health plans would be REQUIRED to pay for and to provide local access to abortion, and many state laws that regulate abortion could be invalidated.
For additional information and documentation, or for an up-to-date report on the status of this legislation, go to http://nrlactioncenter.com or http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/Index.html
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Montana Court to Decide Claim of right to Doctor's Aid in Dying
By Kirk Johnson
The New York Times of September 1, 2009
Robert Baxter was by all accounts a tough man. Even in the end, last year, a tough man. Even in the end, last year, as lymphocytic leukemia was killing him, Mr. Baxter, a 76-year-old retired truck driver from Billings, Montana, fought on. But by then he was struggling not for life, but for the right to die with help from his doctor.
"He yearned. for death," his daughter, Roberta King, said in a court affidavit describing her father's final agonized months.
Now, in death, Mr. Baxter is at the center of a right-to-die debate that could make Montana the first state in the country to declare that medical aid in dying is A PROTECTED RIGHT under a state constitution.
The state's highest court on Wednesday will take up Mr. Baxter's claim that a doctor's REFUSAL to help him die VIOLATED his rights under Montan's Constitution-and lawyers on both sides say the chances are good that he will prevail.
Washington and Oregon ALLOW physicians to help terminally ill people hasten their deaths, but in those states the laws were approved by voters in statewide referendums, and neither state's highest court has examined the issue o A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to die.
In Montana, the question will be decided by the seven-member State Supreme Court. A lower-court judge ruled in Mr. Baxter's favor last December-on the very day Mr. Baxter died--and the State of Montana appealed the ruling.
The legal foundation for both is a free-spirited, libertarian-tinctured State Constitution written in 1972 at the height of a privacy-rights movement that swept through this part of the West in the aftermath of the 1960s. Echoes of a righteous era are reflected in language about keeping government at bay and maintaining individual autonomy and dignity.
"The dignity of the human being is inviolable," the drafters declared.
Lawyers on both sides say the Montana Supreme Court has a tradition of interpreting the STATE Constitution with that sentiment in mind, with privacy rights and personal liberty often outweighing other concerns. The court ruled in 1997, for example, that Montana's anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional invasions of privacy.
The United States Supreme Court FOLLOWED MONTANA'S LEAD in 2003 in REVERSING one of its own decisions that had found no such protections for same-sex couples under the United States Constitution. In 1999 the Montana Court held that a woman's right to choose abortion was protected, including the choice of her medical provider.
Because the Baxter case involves only the State Constitution, the Montana Supreme Court will have the final word, with no appeal possible to the United States Supreme Court.
But a legal case like the one now under consideration ventures to the frontiers of the human experience-why people choose to die and what role government should play at such moments- and invariably pulls on diverse social and political threads. And here again, a list of unusual Montana factors has elevated and complicated the debate.
Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, for example. As a huge state with a small population-about one million people in an area more than half the size of Texas-there are deep pockets of rural life where access to health care, in living or dying, is severely limited.
A substantial American Indian minority, with health care and suicidal issues of its own, has also weighed in as to whether a right for some is a righ tfor all.
"There are moral arguments, philosophical arguments on both sides, bioethical arguments on both sides, even medical and public health arguments on both sides," Anthony Johnstone, the state solicitor at the Montana attorney general's office who will argue the case for the state, said in defense of current laws that prohibit physician-assisted death.
The state argues that the Constitution confers no right to aid in ending one's life.
Some people speaking out about the case, like Bob Liston, are also expressing sentiments that one might not expect.
Mr. Liston, 54, a research associate at the University of Montana who has spent most of the last 40 years in a wheelchair because of an auto accident, has been a passionate advocate for the disabled in arguing for autonomy and respect.
But this time he is arguing just as passionately on the other side, contending that AID IN DYING COULD BACKFIRE on people with debilitating conditions, leading not to more autonomy, but less. Mr. Liston, an organizer for a national disability rights group called Not Dead Yet, said he envisioned people like himself being nudged toward life-ending choices by their doctors or familles, out of compassion or perhaps convenience.
Religious divisions have already surfaced, with many Roman Catholics and evangelicals siding with the state-arguing that the homicide statutes could be weakened if a right to assisted death is affirmed by the court-while some liberal church leaders speak out on behalf of what they say are matters of choice.
"I don't think God created us to be string puppets," said John C. Board, an Episcopal deacon at a church in Helena who supports the Baxter claim. "If we say that God has given everyone free will, that means God has given you the opportunity to do things right and to do things wrong." [But does that mean that the state should encourage you to do what is wrong?]
Kathryn L. Tucker, co-counsel for Mr. Baxter's estate and the other plaintiffs, says this case is also about boundaries.
At a time when the limits, if not failings, of medicine are part of the national debate about health care reform, Ms. Tucker said, what is the power of the individual to set his or her own course?
"This case is part of a journey," said Ms. Tucker, who is director of legal affairs for Compassion and Choices, [formerly known as the Suicide-friendly Hemlock Society], a national group that advocates to protect and expand the rights of the terminally ill [to commit suicide] and is also one of the plaintiffs. "It's about empowering patients and giving them the right to decide when they have suffered enough."
* * * * *
Eunice and Ted-Liberalism, Catholic Faith, and a Difference on Abortion
Pioneer Press, September 3, 2009, by Ross Douthat
Only 13 days separated the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics, from the death of her brother Ted. But amid the wall-to-wall coverage and the stream of retrospectives for the senior senator from Massachusetts, it was easy to forget that he wasn't the only famous Kennedy sibling to enter eternity last month.
Liberalism's most important legislator probably merited a more extended send-off than his sister. But there's a sense in which. his life's work and Eunice's deserve to be remembered together-for what their legacies had in common, and for what ultimately separated them.
What the siblings shared-in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Catholic faith. These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy's tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister's lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired.
What separated them was abortion.
Along with her husband, Sargent Shriver, Eunice belonged to America's dwindling population of outspoken PRO-LIFE liberals. Like her church, she saw a continuity, rather than a contradiction, between championing the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed and protecting unborn human life.
Her brother took a different path. Not at first: In 1971, in a letter to a voter that abortion opponents would have many opportunities to quote, he declared that "wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain RIGHTS which MUST be recognized-the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old." But like many other Catholic liberals, from Joseph Biden to Dennis Kucinich, he moved leftward with his party, becoming a down-the-line supporter of abortion rights, WITH A VOTING RECORD THAT BROOKED NO COMPROMISE ON THE ISSUE.
For abortion opponents, cruel ironies abounded in this sibling disagreement. Because of Eunice Shiver's work with the developmentally disabled, a group of Americans who had once been marginalized and hidden away--or lobotomized, like her sister Rosemary-were ushered closer to full participation in ordinary human life. But because of laws that her brother UNSTINTINGLY supported, that same group was ushered out again: the abortion rate for fetunes diagnosed with down syndrome, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 90 percent.
In 1992, Eunice participated in the LAST significant effort to push the Democratic Party AWAY from abortion on demand, petitioning her party's convention to consider "a NEW understanding" of the issue, "one that does NOT pit mother against child," but instead seeks "policies that responsibly PROTECT AND ADVANCE the interest of mothers and their children, BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER BIRTH." That same summer, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court upheld a near-absolute right to terminate a pregnancy-a decision made possible by her brother's demagogic assault on Robert Bork five years earlier, which helped doom Bork's nomination to the court.
At times, Ted Kennedy's fervor on abortion felt like an extended apology to his party's feminists for the way the men of his dynasty behaved in private. Eunice, by contrast, had nothing to apologize for. She knew what patriarchy meant: She was born into a household out of "Mad Men," where the father paraded his mistress around his family, the sons were groomed for high office, and the daughters were expected to marry well, rear children and suffer silently. And she transcended that stifling milieu, doing more than most men to change the world, and earning the right to disagree with her fellow liberals about what TRUE feminism required.
It's worth pondering how the politics of abortion might have been different had Ted shared even some o his sister's qualms about the practice. One could imagine a world in which America's leading liberal Catholic had found a way to make liberalism less absolutist on the issue, and a world where a man who became famous for reaching across the aisle had reached across, even occasionally, in search of compromise on the country's most divisive issue.
That was not to be. And it's entirely fitting, given his record, that Kennedy's immediate legacy is a draft of health-care legislation that pursues an eminently Catholic goal----expanding access to medical care-through a system that seems likely, in its present design, to subsidize abortion.
But his sister would have written it a different way.
[Emphasis added throughout]