A party that prides itself on being “prolife” and standing up for “family values” is taking hypocrisy to new heights. Vice President Mike Pence, in a recent tweet that encapsulates a libertarian ideology rooted in social Darwinism, boasted that the GOP will create a health-care system “based on personal responsibility, free-market competition, and state-based reform.” When you move beyond such tired, ideological slogans, you’re left contemplating a worldview that puts profits before people and rich donors before human decency. Reality, Pope Francis reminds us, is more powerful than ideas.
And the reality, if Republicans succeed in their efforts, will be nothing less than a moral scandal. Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which includes more than six hundred hospitals and 1,400 long-term care facilities, describes  the proposals as likely to have a “devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable populations.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—an institution that opposed final Obamacare legislation because of concerns over contraception and abortion funding—said that elements of the Senate health-care bill would “wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.” The American Medical Association announced  its opposition on Monday, writing in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the draft legislation violates the first principle of medicine: “Do no harm.” The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scoring of the Senate bill found that it would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. Decades ago Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. captured well the upside-down priorities we’re seeing now when he noted that “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
As political strategists plotted tactics and talking heads crowed on cable news, parents of seriously ill children came to the U.S. Capitol last week to remind members of Congress that their backroom deals have real-life consequences. Mothers wheeled kids with oxygen tanks and feeding tubes into congressional offices. These are families that lose sleep at night worrying about costly medical bills and twenty-four-hour care. A mother of a one-year-old who needs an IV that pumps fluid directly into his heart told  the Washington Post that if the GOP health-care plans become law “my son would likely die, it would be a catastrophe.”
Some conservative commentators and Republican leaders over the years have dubbed Democrats the “Party of Death ” because of support for abortion rights, and in some cases, physician-assisted suicide. But our national debate over what it means to be “pro-life” has frequently been narrowly framed and selective. GOP proposals on health care and the social safety net are not simply bad policy ideas. The bottom line is that more poor, sick people will suffer and die because a powerful few in the richest nation in the world decided tax breaks for the wealthy and fealty to anti-government ideologies are more important than making sure those least able to help themselves are treated with dignity. Those few but increasingly vocal Republican members of Congress who are raising objections need to evangelize their colleagues, and fast.