Your January 29 editorial, “Prolife, Yes, & Pro-reform,” like most reporting on the subject, treats the Stupak amendment and the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as opposing federal funding of abortions. That is not accurate. The amendment would permit federal funding of abortions in the case of rape, incest, or physical threat to the life of the mother. I think that is the language of the Hyde amendment. The USCCB accepts that standard in federal legislation. Yet the USCCB’s public statements on health-care reform often skirt the issue by referring to “elective abortions”—typically buried in documents voicing the bishops’ opposition to proposed legislation. The media has not focused on that issue.
The USCCB claims to be taking an absolute moral stand on an issue that can brook no compromise. In fact, the bishops are making a prudential judgment, balancing political realities against moral issues. There is nothing wrong with that. But it flies in the face of the image they want to present—and have been successfully presenting. If they were compelled to acknowledge that they are willing to support public funding for some abortions, the basis of the argument might shift dramatically.