US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Sifting through reactions to the Supreme Court's health care ruling

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

We knew that no matter what the Supreme Court decided today on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there was going to be a pretty strong reaction from Catholics and other faith-based groups.

It took less than an hour for the press releases to start piling up in my inbox, and the reactions were about what you'd expect. First came American Life League:

"American Life League expresses profound disappointment and joins fellow Americans in condemning the Supreme Court of the United States in its decision to uphold [the Affordable Care Act] as law," their statement begins. Adds ALL president Judie Brown, "We must remember in these dark days that, while we are proud to be Americans, our primary loyalty is to God, not man and surely not the government. Civil disobedience appears to be one of the few options we have, and we say bring it."

Americans United for Life adds to the discussion with a statement from president and CEO Charmaine Yoest: “The Affordable Care Act forces an abortion agenda on the American people unlike anything seen since Roe v. Wade." Opposition to the decision I expected, but comparing it to Roe v. Wade was a bit of a surprise.

Then came the lawyers' responses. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty asserts that its fight against the ACA's requirement of mandatory contraception coverage is unchanged by today's ruling. The Alliance Defense Fund calls the law a "cancer" that will continue. "This administration has used health care law to become a dictator of conscience,” says the ADF's Steven Aden. “The court’s decision is alarming and deeply wrong."

Then there's National Right to Life, which just comes out and says what a lot of others were probably thinking: "All voters who care about the value and dignity of human life must do everything they can to elect Mitt Romney and a Congress who are committed to repeal of [the Affordable Care Act]."

Finally, I read the statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the midst of their "Fortnight for Freedom" campaign, the bishops manage to offer the most balanced statement that I've seen yet on the court's ruling.

"For nearly a century," the statement reads, "the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable." The statement then enumerates the problems the bishops still have with the law--repeating some of the same objections they had at the time of the law's passage--but once again they state very clearly that they aren't looking for a repeal of the health care law, just a few revisions.

The Affordable Care Act is a complicated law which, like most laws, has its pros and cons. The heated rhetoric from both sides of the debate about its passage, and now about the complex and lengthy opinions released by the Supreme Court (how many objectors read Chief Justice John Roberts' 65-page decision before saying the court made a grave mistake?) are really not helpful.

The bishops have provided a voice of reason, reminding us that there's still work to be done, but we can't lose sight of the critical issue at the heart of the debate: caring for the most vulnerable among us and protecting the dignity and sanctity of human life.