WASHINGTON — A top Roman Catholic official said today the church hierarchy is meeting with congressional leaders to work out compromise civil rights legislation that would limit health insurance payments for abortions.
"As of this writing," Father Daniel Hoye said in a memorandum to Catholic bishops, "the top level of the House leadership has become engaged in discussions on if and how this legislation should be moved forward in a way which will preserve our interests.
"What will result from these discussions is, at this time, very unclear," Hoye added.
At issue is the proposed Civil Rights Restoration Act, legislation designed to overturn the Supreme Court's 1984 Grove City decision that sharply curtailed the reach of federal civil rights sex discrimination sanctions in schools and other institutions found to discriminate.
The court ruling limited sanctions to programs that directly receive federal funding. The new bill would restore institution-wide coverage under civil rights statutes dealing with discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age and handicaps.
The abortion amendments would exclude abortion coverage from institutional health benefits plans for students, employees and others. They also would expand the "religious tenet" section that exempts institutions controlled by religious organizations from complying with those parts of the law that conflict with religious beliefs.