On Wednesday, June 23, I was part of a meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (next to the White House) with Melody Barnes (the President’s Director of the Domestic Advisory Council) and other staffers including Sharon Parrott and Alexia Kelley from the Department of Health and Human Services. They called the meeting to discuss the implementation of the Pregnant Women’s Support Act that was part of the healthcare reform bill passed in March. Senator Bob Casey and two of his staff joined the meeting to talk about why they included this legislation in the bill and visions for moving forward.
While I do a lot of these meetings, I thought it was noteworthy to write about this one because of two factors. First, the presence of both Melody Barnes AND Senator Casey shows how concerned the administration is about supporting vulnerable women in their pregnancies. They both recounted that they support one of the key goals of the bill—to find effective ways to reduce the number of abortions in our country. The plan with this legislation is to develop both “best practices” and coordination of services that will allow parents to both raise their children and gain an education.
But the second factor was for me even more compelling. In the room were groups that both supported healthcare reform (Catholic Health Association, Sisters of Mercy, ourselves and others) AND staff from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and others who had not supported the legislation. To have the USCCB staff there was encouraging to me. It indicates that we can work together on implementation even though we had been in different places on the legislation itself. I take this as a good sign that maybe some of the rancor might be dying down and, at least here inside the Beltway, we are moving on. I sincerely hope that is the case. This was a good step in that direction. May there be more!