Will Progressive Catholics Finally Admit the Truth about Obamacare?

Catholics were repeatedly assured that the Affordable Care Act would not pay for abortion. That falsehood has now been exposed many times over.

Pointing to the “stupidity” of the American voters, MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the creators of Obamacare, admitted at a videotaped conference with fellow academics in 2012 that the Obama administration went through “tortured” mechanisms to keep the truth about the health care legislation from the American people. Paid more than $397,000 of taxpayer money, Gruber served as primary spokesperson on the economics of the Affordable Care Act, playing the role of the earnest and disinterested professor reassuring everyone that the president’s plan would provide tremendous financial benefits to all by streamlining health care delivery.

However, this week’s release of the videotaped statements from Gruber—when he thought he was among fellow academics who would congratulate him on his cleverness—reveal that from the beginning, Obamacare was based on lies. Claiming that keeping the facts from the American people was important, Gruber told his audience that the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage…basically that was really, really critical to get for the thing to pass.”

Gruber knows—as many of us knew back in 2009—that the rhetoric surrounding the health care legislation was often misleading, and sometimes simply dishonest. Even the progressive PolitiFact.com awarded its “Lie of the Year Award” for 2013 to President Obama’s often repeated phrase: “If you like your health care plan you can keep it.” According to PolitiFact, the “you can keep it claim has been a real hit to [Obama’s] credibility.”

What is discouraging though is that Gruber is the only one who has actually publicly admitted to the “lack of transparency” leading up to the passage of the health care law. Perhaps it is time now for the Catholic leaders who promoted the president’s health care initiative—replete with public funding for abortion—to tell the truth also. For example, Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus of Duquesne University Law School and co-chair of Catholics for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012, promoted the preposterous assertion that in 2012 Barack Obama was the “only true pro-life candidate for president.” In an August 10, 2012 article in National Catholic Reporter, Cafardi stated, “Obama’s Affordable Care Act does not pay for abortion.”

Cafardi’s incredible statement in 2012 was made after four years of the Obama administration’s expansion of abortion here and abroad—including the president’s 2009 executive order overturning President Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which had banned funding for international family planning groups that provide abortion-related services overseas, as well as the HHS contraceptive mandate requiring Catholic colleges and universities such as Mr. Cafardi’s own Duquesne University to provide free contraceptive care to all employees, including abortion-inducing drugs.

Cafardi was joined in his advocacy for the pro-abortion President Obama by Douglas Kmiec, dean of the law school at Catholic University and Pepperdine University law professor. In 2008, Kmiec published a book entitled Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama, which claimed, as did Cafardi, that Obama was the “real” pro-life candidate. In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times before the 2008 election, Kmiec wrote that even though John McCain was a “self-proclaimed pro-lifer,” Obama was the real Catholic choice because “a Catholic serious about preserving life could reasonably find Obama’s educational and material assistance to mothers the practice, stronger alternative.”

By 2012—after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, including funding for abortion and the contraceptive mandate—Kmiec continued to criticize bishops who he claimed “overstated matters considerably” with regard to the mandate. In an article published in the National Catholic Reporter in 2012, Kmiec countered the bishops’ concerns about the contraceptive mandate, claiming that “the president has gone a good distance to make certain the Catholic Church and its auxiliaries are not the providers of contraceptive care.” Kmiec also joined Gruber in the distortions surrounding the economics of Obamacare. In that same 2012 NCRpiece, Kmiec claimed that “the mandate results in more balanced risk pools and lower premiums.” How could anyone who had read about the skyrocketing insurance costs have believed him? Still, Kmiec soldiers on—now supporting Hilary Clinton’s bid for the presidency in a September 2014 article entitled “The Indispensability of President Hillary Clinton to Marriage, Gender Equality, and Religious Freedom.”

Both Cafardi and Kmiec must know that the rhetoric on abortion funding they deployed to help pass the health care legislation was misleading. A 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued earlier this year documents new public funding of abortion in the president’s health care law. Despite the president’s promise that under his plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion, the GAO found that 1,036 plans do not itemize the required separate abortion surcharge on their bills—ignoring the accounting scheme the president put in place to “protect” taxpayers from paying for abortion. The GAO concludes that that some qualified health plans provide a “comprehensive package of health benefits—including abortion services—counter to what the president and his faithful helpers promised. The GAO report added that after providing a draft of its report to the HHS offices, the Obama administration responded that “additional clarification may be needed and CMS will use our findings to address issues of concern to better ensure that stakeholders understand the laws and regulations governing the provision of non-excepted abortion services coverages.”

For faithful Catholics, the lie that federal dollars would not be used to fund abortion has been the greatest disappointment. Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, contributed to the confusion when she contradicted the bishops’ concerns about the legislation by saying that President Obama’s health care reform drew on Catholic social teachings and was “an ethical necessity, a building block for the common good of the nation and the strength of its communities.” Archbishop Charles Chaput responded by charging that Sr. Keehan had weakened the pro-life Catholic response and the response of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by providing a cover for Catholic legislators and others who wished to support the law.

Archbishop Chaput lamented the harm done by Catholic groups like the progressive organization Catholics United, which have “done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops.” Singling out the Catholic Health Association in particular, he stated, “the actions of the Catholic Health Association in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging…. CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress. The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and other similar Catholic organizations.”

Whether President Obama’s “faithful helpers” will ever acknowledge the role they played in helping to convince Catholics of the truth of the President’s false promises on abortion remains to be seen.

About Anne Hendershott 74 Articles
Anne Hendershott is professor of sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Church (Encounter Books).