OK, we’re a few days from the House vote on the Senate health care bill containing abortion funding. That funding has been publicly acknowledged and condemned by the USCCB and numerous bishops individually.
We have also witnessed the support given the Senate health care bill by the trade association for Catholic hospitals — the Catholic Health Association — led by Sr. Carol Keehan.
Since CHA represents over 600 Catholic hospitals and has for many years been closely associated with the USCCB, its opposition to the bishops’ position must have come as a shock to them.
How does the Catholic News Service, itself a department of the USCCB, report this story? The story, written by Nancy Frazier O’Brien, begins with the following headline:
CHA backs health bill; bishops reiterate objection to abortion wording
O’Brien did not necessarily write the headline, but someone from CNS did, and that’s unfortunate and imbalanced, if not outrageous.
Note that the headline subordinates CHA’s position to that of the bishops.
Note also, the bishops weakly “reiterate” their “objection” to “abortion wording,” not to the abortion funding.
The story that should be indicated by the headline is how the Catholic trade association for hospitals is taking an opposing position to the bishops on the health care bill, thus ignoring the bishops’ concern about the presence of abortion funding.
But that’s not the story written by O’Brien. The headline actually represents the story very well.
O’Brien’s article contains quotations from today’s statement by Cardinal George about the deficiencies of the Senate bill, but the bulk of the article contains Sr. Keehan’s self-justification of her position and the positive review of the bill offered by Timothy Stolfzfus Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law.
O’Brien points out Jost’s claim that the Senate bill is “pro-life” was rejected by a USCCB analysis of his claims. She then tries to link Sr. Keehan’s criticism of the Senate bill she is supporting to the USCCB’s criticism of Jost:
The USCCB analysis had a similar message [to Sr. Keehan] on abortion in response to those who, like Jost, see no ‘signficant differences’ between the House and the Senate bills on abortion.
In O’Brien’s article, somehow Sr. Keehan comes out on the side of the USCCB in spite of the fact that she is supporting the Senate version of the bill and encouraging House members, including Catholics, to vote for it.
The CNS story, therefore, is not that Sr. Keehan has led the CHA to oppose the bishops on health care, but that she is on their side.