Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Gloves are Off: Planned Parenthood President Slams U.S. Bishops on Abortion, Healthcare

By John Jalsevac

August 19, 2009 ( - The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, has penned a scathing editorial, published today in the Huffington Post, in which she sets her sights on the U.S. Catholic bishops, slamming them for their opposition to the abortion mandate in the Obama health care bill, and to abortion in general.

"Does anyone else see the irony in the U.S. bishops wanting to define universal health care as covering everything except for what they don't support?" writes Richards. "Since when does universal health care mean denying comprehensive reproductive health care supported by the majority of Americans?"

Richards then goes on to accuse the bishops of endangering "millions" of women's lives around the globe with their "hard-line opposition to women's rights." "The effort to criminalize access to safe abortion endangers most women in the developing world -- the very women that you would think the bishops would be concerned about," says Richards.

The U.S. bishops, while expressing support for healthcare reform in general, have been adamant in their stance that healthcare reform must not include mandated abortion coverage - something that the current legislation would do if passed.

In an August 11 letter Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, carefully but forcefully countered claims, propagated by proponents of Obama's healthcare reform, including Planned Parenthood and Cecile Richards, that the Obama plan wouldn't mandate abortion coverage and lead to taxpayer funding for abortions.

Any claim that taxpayer money would not be used to fund abortion is "an illusion," said Rigali in that letter. "Government will force low-income Americans to subsidize abortions for others (and abortion coverage for themselves) even if they find abortion morally abhorrent."

Numerous other prominent bishops, including Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Robert Vasa, and Bishop R. Walter Nickless have also spoken strongly against the abortion provisions in the healthcare bill.

The intense campaign to publicize the abortion mandate in the healthcare bill, not only by the U.S. bishops, but by a huge alliance of pro-life and pro-family organizations, appears to have been successful, with a majority of Americans in a recent poll saying that they believe the Obama reform would include taxpayer funding for abortion.

However, with the majority of Americans calling themselves pro-life, any taxpayer funding for abortion is likely to be extremely unpopular and contribute to the swelling opposition to the Obama plan.

When pro-life concerns about the abortion mandate in the healthcare bill first began to be expressed, pro-abortion groups and legislators responded by simply denying that the legislation would mandate abortion coverage. Cecile Richards was amongst these, saying at the beginning of this month that the abortion mandate is a "myth."

"Nothing in any of the current health care reform bills mandates abortion coverage -- or any other type of health care service -- in the Exchange," Richards insisted in a column for the Huffington Post early in August. "Opponents of women's health and health care reform are exploiting this legislation as a way to push for unprecedented prohibitions on abortion coverage in the private marketplace."

In her most recent article, however, the Planned Parenthood head was more candid about her views on the healthcare plan, saying that it should include "comprehensive reproductive health," a term that for Planned Parenthood includes abortion and contraception.

"We have an opportunity this year to fundamentally address serious health care issues for women and young people in America," says Richards, "and we stand ready to partner with President Obama and Congress to find solutions to our most pressing health care issues."

"We call upon Congress and the White House to continue to stand firmly on the side of women in health care reform. Women are needed to pass health care reform -- and we are not going backwards and we are not going away."

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