Nuns Support Health-Care Reform, Defy Bishops

Hot on the heels of Kucinich's declaration of support for health-care reform, the Associated Press is reporting that Catholic nuns are urging Democratic lawmakers to support health-care reform. This is a major break with the church's bishops, who have strongly opposed the legislation on the grounds that some federal subsidies may end up funding abortions. Although the Senate bill does contain provisions that prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion—similar to the existing Medicaid provisions—bishops have been arguing that the bill is not rigid enough. Nuns disagree.

The nuns who lead 60 different Catholic orders wrote on behalf of their 59,000 members to congressional representatives, saying "despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortion." They call the bill "the real pro-life stance" because it helps pregnant women access the health care they need. (For more on this argument, see T. R. Reid's compelling piece, which argues that women who have access to high-quality health care for themselves and their children are less inclined to seek abortions.)

This move by America's nuns is another signal that momentum is building toward the final passage of reform. Hill insiders have been speculating for days about the sturdiness of Bart Stupak's faction (the group demanding stricter anti-abortion provisions). Having high-profile support from a key Catholic group nudges fence-sitters in that group toward a yes vote. At the very least, the letter damages the validity of Stupak's argument.