It’s getting to crunch time on Capitol Hill in Washington as the U.S. House prepares to bring its version of a health care reform bill to the floor for debate. There is division within the Democratic Party, which has the numbers needed to easily pass the legislation, over the issue of abortion and whether the procedure should be covered by any bill that is passed. Many miles away from the Nation’s Capital, in St. Louis, a Catholic priest who supports universal health care coverage is expressing his view that expansion of abortion rights will not be a part of any final bill.

Father John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., a Professor of Philosophy and Medical Ethics at Saint Louis University, supports a single payer system in which every American is covered. But he does not want to see anyone forced to pay for abortion.

“It’s one thing, in conscience, to think that other people who come out of a different philosophical or religious tradition should have the option,” said Father Kavanaugh in an interview with the Missourinet. “But it’s quite another to think that people who feel that this is really the taking of an innocent human being’s life should pay for it – that’s the problem.”

Father Kavanaugh would maintain what is known as the Hyde Amendment, named after former Congressman Henry Hyde. It stands in the way of federal funding for abortion unless the health of the woman is at risk.

“I would continue with the Hyde principle of federal funding,” said Father Kavanaugh. “I also would want to have a conscience clause for physicians and hospitals that do not want to participate in abortion.”

Father Kavanaugh believes the question of funding for abortions will be addressed in the coming days and will not stand in the way of passage of a bill.

“I just don’t think it’s going to increase abortions or increase any kind of federal payment for it,” said Father Kavanaugh. “I think that will be eased out in the next few days.”

There is talk, in Washington, that many of the moderate and conservative Democrats – known as Blue Dogs – will vote with Republicans to oppose the legislation if it includes public funding for abortions.

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