I am aghast the the US Senate rushing through a health bill that no one has read, and voting on it over a Christmas weekend when most people have a life to live and don’t follow the news.

But that is no excuse for this shoddy reporting by the NY Times: “Catholic groups Support Senate on Abortion Aid ” blares the headline, and the article then goes on without naming the groups except to note that the Catholic Hospital Association was supportive of the bill, in contrast to the “hardline” bishops.

Just days before the bill passed, the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the country, said in a statement that it was “encouraged” and “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.” An umbrella group for nuns followed its lead.

The same day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called the proposed compromise “morally unacceptable.”

What was missing from the picture?

Well, a “couple days” wasn’t clarified if the quote came before or after language restricting abortion was removed from the bill.

According to Catholic News Service, the quotes came from an interview on December 17th,

Sister Carol said Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick based his Dec. 26 story on a Dec. 17 CHA statement which noted that CHA had not reviewed the language of various amendments on the table at the time but was “encouraged by recent deliberations and the outline” Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., was developing.

And if you wonder what was being discussed back then, check out the story of December 18th at USA TODAY, that implied that the language being discussed was quite different from what was eventually passed.

Nor did they bother to call anyone from the Catholic Health Association to see what they meant by “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion”.

Instead, the (pro abortion, pro administration) NYTimes interpreted the quote as disagreeing with the Catholic bishops, which is not the only way to interpret the remark, especially since we weren’t told if the remark was made before or after the original Nelson amendment hit the dust, nor were we told if the quote was an official decision of the CHA or if it was the personal opinion of the head of the CHA.

So what did the bishops have to say about this? The reporter claims this with a straight face.

The United States Bishops Conference has not responded to requests for comment.

Let’s see. The bill was brought up to vote on Christmas Eve, and the news story came out on December 26. Presumably the reporter can’t imagine why the folks in the office weren’t sitting at their desk all day on December 25 waiting to comment to the Times article. I mean, what else do people do on a holiday weekend?

Well, Catholic News Sevice picked up the telephone on Monday and did ask the head of the CHA to clarify what she meant, and guess what?

“There is not a shred of disagreement between CHA and the bishops,” Sister Carol said. “We believe there is a great possibility and probability that in conference committee we can work toward a solution that will prevent federal funding of abortion.”

She said the CHA, which represents more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., “brings a lot of expertise with funding structures in the marketplace” to the debate and hopes to “bring that to bear” during the conference committee’s work.

So why did the NYTimes make such a gaffe?

Maybe it’s because the  NyTimes is not aware that the bishops are the ones who teach faith and morals, and that the “rules” insisting that abortion is a sin is 2000 years old and unlikely to change.

GetReligion blog notes that one reason was that they might have been relying on the “Catholic front groups” (aka “astroturf” groups,  funded by donors connected with the Democratic party, and who often are interviewed by the press to give an alternative Catholic point of view).

GetReligionBlog, which specializes in pointing out the misunderstanding of reporters who don’t “get religion”,  also points out that the Times ignores the implications of the bill:

in an interview early this week Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave to a feminist blogger, Sebelius essentially admitted that language in the Senate bill means that everyone in government insurance exchanges will be forced to pay for abortion. The Times should really be a bit more explicit about what’s going on here and exactly why people object.

But my take is that the report was a deliberate piece of propaganda to pressure pro life Representatives in Congress to give into the pro abortion language in the Senate bill.

Expect for the NYTimes claim to be repeated over and over again, in an attempt to wear down the pro life Democrats in Congress, by insisting that the Catholic Hospital Association opinion gives them moral cover to change the language of the bill of the House, which refuses to fund abortion, to that of the Senate, that does fund abortion but pretends not to.

As I pointed out in an earlier article, the language is a “shell game” that allows women to pay a nominal fee for elective abortion coverage, while allowing the government and insurance companies to quietly switch taxpayer funds to cover the inevitable short fall of funds needed to pay for “elective” abortions, i.e.the 98% of abortions where there are no major health reasons that would make abortion medically necessary.

Finally, despite the clarification (and denial) on the part of the Catholic Hospital Association, the NYTimes story is still on line, without any retractions or clarifications saying that they took the quotations out of context.

So one must presume that the “news” story is propaganda, and that the editors know it.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about human rights at MakaipaBlog.

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