Boston’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Says He Confronted Obama about Abortion in Health Care Plan at Ted Kennedy’s Funeral

By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 4, 2009 | 1:55 AM EDT

Sen. Ted Kennedy and President Obama at the White House, April 21, 2009 (official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson).

( - Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, wrote on Thursday that he confronted President Barack Obama on the question of abortion in the health care reform plan now before Congress when he spoke to Obama in a Boston church at Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral.

O’Malley made the revelation in a long blog posting on his archdiocesan Web site responding to Catholics who were distressed that he had taken part in a very public funeral Mass celebrating the life of Sen. Kennedy.

Kennedy supported legalized abortion (including legalized partial-birth abortion), federal funding for research that kills human embryos and same-sex marriage—positions that were in open defiance of the explicit teachings of the church.

“President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral,” wrote O’Malley. “I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future. The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying.”

On August 11, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives stating that the House health care bill supported abortion and was unacceptable to Catholics.

“Because some federal funds are authorized and appropriated by this legislation without passing through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, they are not covered by the Hyde amendment and other federal provisions that have long prevented federal funding of abortion and of health benefits packages that include abortion,” Rigali wrote.

“The committee rejected an amendment to extend this longstanding policy to the use of federal subsidies for health care premiums under this Act,” Rigali continued. “Instead the committee created a legal fiction, a paper separation between federal funding and abortion: Federal funds will subsidize the public plan, as well as private health plans that include abortion on demand; but anyone who purchases these plans is required to pay a premium out of his or her own pocket (specified in the Act to be at least $1.00 a month) to cover all abortions beyond those eligible for federal funds under the current Hyde amendment. Thus some will claim that federal taxpayer funds do not support abortion under the Act. But this is an illusion. Funds paid into these plans are fungible, and federal taxpayer funds will subsidize the operating budget and provider networks that expand access to abortions. Furthermore, those constrained by economic necessity or other factors to purchase the ‘public plan’ will be forced by the federal government to pay directly and specifically for abortion coverage.”

While not mentioning Cardinal Rigali and the Catholic bishops, President Obama has said that those who say the health care bill funds abortion are lying.

In explaining his participation in Kennedy’s funeral mass, Cardinal O’Malley said it was “a great disappointment” to him that the senator supported the legalized killing of unborn children.

“Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn,” said O’Malley. “­­­Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.  To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished.”

In an August 19 talk on BlogTalkRadio, President Obama said people who say that the health care bill involves government funding of abortion are liars.

“You’ve heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true,” he said. “This is all--these are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation. And that is that we look out for one another. That I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.”

In his August 22 weekly address, President Obama again attacked the truthfulness of those who point out that the health care reform bill would funnel federal tax dollars to abortions.

“So today, I want to spend a few minutes debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country,” said Obama. “… Some are also saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false. When it comes to the current ban on using tax dollars for abortions, nothing will change under reform.”
Cardinal O’Malley did not indicate that President Obama made any response to him in the church at Sen. Kennedy’s funeral when he brought up the issue of abortion in the health care bill. He only said the president was “gracious” and “listened intently.”
Obama also delivered a eulogy for Sen. Kennedy at the funeral, which was held at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston.

“Ted Kennedy's life work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections.  It was to give a voice to those who were not heard,” Obama said in that eulogy.

As a state senator in Illinois, Obama was the leading opponent of legislation that called for treating a child that survived an induced labor abortion as a “person” under Illinois law. As a presidential candidate, he vowed to Planned Parenthood that he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would enshrine abortion on demand in a federal statute. As president, he has approved federal funding for research that requires the killing of human embryos.