A Prescription for the Health Care Debate

"Truth in Charity" Offers Needed Guidance

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By Carl Anderson

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, JULY 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Central to the message of Benedict XVI's recently released encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," is the idea that people are at the center of a sustainable and equitable development.

Fundamental to that premise -- as the Pope makes clear -- is openness to life at every stage. This reality, he explains, carries with it a profound moral responsibility since every person -- created in the image and likeness of God -- is entitled to respect and, from the Christian perspective, loving concern.

In order for this goal to be realized, two things must occur.

First: Each of us must see our individual and collective moral responsibility as something that we do not compartmentalize. Our moral compass should not be left at home when we go to work, or at our parish church when we go home. We must be moral men and women -- for all seasons, at all times, and in every circumstance.

We cannot have one morality on Sunday and another on Monday. We must be morally consistent.

Second: As the encyclical makes clear, authentic development can only progress based upon an authentic vision of the human person. "When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away" (No. 28).

With these words in mind, we should consider the laudable ideal of providing health coverage to Americans who do not have it. However, such coverage must not come at the price of an unprecedented expansion of abortion mandates and funding.

Sadly, buried in the legislation under consideration are a variety of mandates that will -- intentionally or unintentionally -- result in greater funding for and coverage of abortion.

The National Right to Life Committee maintains that the bill would result in "the greatest expansion of abortion since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in 1973." Many other experts have sounded similar warnings -- as currently written federal courts and administrators would mandate abortion coverage in virtually all health plans.

Such a result would be a prime example of the dangers of charitable intentions separated from the truth about the human person.

And the potential abortion mandates would not only be morally bankrupt, but would fly in the face of the will of the American people themselves. A recent poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, as part of our Moral Compass Project, found that 86% of Americans favor significant restrictions on abortion, and more self identify as "pro-life" than as "pro-choice."

In addition, other recent polls also indicate that Americans do not want taxpayer funding of abortion -- at home or abroad. A poll commissioned by Americans United for Life in May showed that 71% of Americans opposed using tax dollars to fund abortion in the United States, and that 61% were "strongly opposed."

A Gallup poll in February showed that 58% of Americans disapproved of the president's decision to allow funding of overseas groups that provide abortion. Only 35% approved.

In the 30 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal throughout the United States, many have lamented that the two sides of the abortion issue could not find agreement. Any "common ground" on the issue of abortion, at least in the words of many pundits and politicians, could only be achieved on such ancillary topics as adoption or pre-natal health care.

Recent polling has shown this to be false. Americans have found a consensus, and that consensus is a desire to see abortion restricted, and tax dollars used elsewhere.

A health care system designed to facilitate the saving of lives on the one hand, and the taking of lives through abortion on the other, is at war with itself, and hardly good policy.

The United States deserves better. The American people -- as poll after poll has shown -- want something better.

Legislators should begin by heeding the words of Benedict XVI: "Openness to life is at the center of true development."

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Carl Anderson is the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and a New York Times bestselling author.