Bishops Fight for Immigrants’ Health Care?

November 24, 2009 at 10:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Yesterday in Politico  Jeanne Cummings discussed the US Catholic bishops involvement in the current health care debate as I did a few days ago. Catholic pressure in the debate is significant, Cummings maintains, because Catholics comprise the single largest religious group in Congress–30%–and extend across party lines.

In the health care debate, Cummings goes on to say, the bishops have consistently identified three priorities: abortion, freedom of conscience clauses, and the rights of immigrants.  But it seems unlikely the bishops will put anything like the kind of effort into immigrant rights that they have put into the abortion question:

“’I don’t think the Catholics in the pews will get quite as focused on a message of immigrants as they have been on the question of abortion,’ said Stephen Schneck, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America. ‘And I’m not convinced the church leaders are willing to expend the political capital with those Catholics in order to promote the cause.’

“Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a Catholic who participated in the intense negotiations over the final abortion language, said the pressure from the church to ease restrictions on immigrants was ‘not even close’ to the abortion language tug of war.”

According to Cummings, there may be good reasons for these differences in emphasis; the bishops worked with the Democratic party and the Hispanic Caucus in the House to bring about incremental improvements in the situation of immigrants vis-a-vis health care, especially that they should have the right to buy insurance with their own money on the new exchanges. 

But Cummings also says that on abortion, the stakes  are much higher for the bishops than they are on immigration. She concludes:

“So one unanswered question is whether the church will criticize — by name — those Republican and Democratic lawmakers who don’t stand with it on the issue of immigrants, much as some bishops…have been willing to criticize by name those lawmakers who opposed the abortion coverage amendment.”

Stay tuned.

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