Monday, March 15, 2010
USCCB and Catholic Health Association Under Fire From Ultra-Conservative Catholics.
At present, the USCCB has not issued any statement directly opposing the Catholic Health Association or any of the Catholic groups supporting the Senate bill such as Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
The lack of such a statement allows the press, the White House, and the Congress to hold up these groups as providing official Catholic support to a public which largely does not know any better.
A direct rebuke from the USCCB towards the Catholic Health Association would not be in keeping with what I have termed its strategy of qualified support, but it would certainly keep wavering members of Congress from finding political cover from these groups willing to accept abortion funding.
With a vote on the bill coming as soon as Friday or Saturday, the USCCB is running out of time to get tough. The parish bulletin program emailed last Friday by the USCCB comes too late to have any serious impact on a vote this week.
The willingness of such an intimate partner with the USCCB to break with the bishops on the health care bill is just another aspect of its failure to negotiate powerfully with Congress and speak loudly and clearly to the media on this legislation. Its strategy of qualified support has put the USCCB in a weakened position and allowed the initiative to be taken over by groups with vested interests. CHA wants federal money for its hospitals, while Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good were created precisely to keep Democrats in power, even if it means further endangering the lives of the unborn.It’s common sense that you can’t win a negotiation if you aren’t willing to walk away from the table. Thus far, the USCCB hasn’t shown that willingness. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando understood this when he wrote a few days ago, “No health-care legislation is better than bad health-care legislation.”
Despite recent and vocal debunking of the accusation that the current bill provides federal funding for abortion, Hudson and Catholic Advocate, along with other Catholic-right organizations, have worked hard to push the conservative USCCB even farther to the right on health care. That the composers of both the Stupak and Nelson amendments deserve criticism for not being right enough and that they are allowing CHA to misrepresent Catholic opinion on health care is a blatant falsehood.
An October poll shows that a full 56% of Catholics think the USCCB should not take a position on health care reform and a majority support both the public option and funding for abortion (again, even though the latter is not included in the existing bill.)
While I'll agree that public opinion is too often falsely touted as the best way to achieve individual rights (historically, meaningful minority rights legislation has required both strong executive or legislative leadership AND public support) Hudson is asking the church hierarchy to take a much more conservative stance than it's parishioners. As we've seen throughout the debate, they certainly have. But that's not enough for Deal Hudson - and he's not alone; he is so far right of Catholic opinion on this issue that he makes the USCCB look more liberal than they really are.
Moving Legislation Farther to the Right And Calling It Rights.
Tampa Bay Online reports that a number of new bills regarding "abortion and the unborn" are being proposed in a new wave of anti-choice legislation. Modern liberal presidents, of which one could argue we've really only had two since the legalization of abortion in 1973 (and another could argue that they weren't ultimately that liberal) have always triggered a conservative backlash. We're seeing that now with the Tea Party and the disarray of the Republican party as it searches for it's base and works to regroup.
That patients' rights is a focus of such regrouping and "appeal to the base" is no surprise since the current president is focusing on health care reform. How successful these bills are depends on how attentive the public is to such discriminatory efforts.
Though Republican efforts to limit women's rights (and elders') are nothing new, I expect we'll see a giant push at the state level like the Tampa Bay article reports. The interesting nature of these renewed efforts is the way in which Republicans have adopted "women's rights" language to portray their legislature in a pro-woman light. Conservative groups have long worked to claim ownership of "real American values" and "patriotism" and "individualism." Now they're working to co-opt the language of rights by claiming to ally with older concepts of civil rights activism. Glenn Beck encourages Tea Party protesters to act like Martin Luther King Jr.; Sarah Palin works to portray herself as a liberated woman even going so far as to champion her choice to have a down syndrome child as she works agains women's choice; "pro-life" activists like Jill Stanek have warped statistics to propose that abortion equals black genocide; and the conservative Coalition for Patients' Rights works for discriminatory legislation regarding health care reform.
What's happening in Florida is in line with what's happening across the country. Republicans are appealing to (racist?) anti-government sentiment among ultra-conservatives by introducing increasingly conservative (big government) legislation. It doesn't make sense when examined closely and while it's nothing new, it is increasingly couched in benign language about women's and individual rights.
Here's the interesting clip:
About half of the bills come from legislators running for re-election, in a year when Tea Party activists and other GOP malcontents are challenging candidates to prove their conservative credentials. At least one bill was scheduled for a hearing early in the session, by a Republican committee chairwoman who is running for governor.
John Stemberger, of the Florida Family Policy Council, said he's delighted to see this year's show of pro-life initiative. Lawmakers' votes and sponsorship of at least some of the bills, he said, will factor prominently in the guide to political candidates his organization compiles each year for socially conservative voters.
"There's a frustration, I think, in the social conservative community, that Legislature has not been responsive," he said.
Political scientist Darryl Paulson who is a Republican, speculated that "many of these politicians are engaging in symbolic politics," appealing to their base.
Most of the sponsors insist their bills are not intended to interfere with a woman's ability to get an abortion, though all are Republicans who oppose the procedure.