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The National Catholic Bioethics Center
Response to the Supreme Court Decision in King v. Burwell
Thursday, June 25, 2015 2:00:00 PM
© 2017 by The National Catholic Bioethics Center


Response to the Supreme Court Decision in King v. Burwell

June 25, 2015


The National Catholic Bioethics Center respects the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell and, at the same time, calls on Congress and President Obama to collaborate in making necessary amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The core constitutional dispute in King v. Burwell centered on whether clear language in legislation should control the implementation of law and whether the role of courts is limited to interpreting laws rather than helping to make laws. These principles are central to American constitutional governance and the rights it protects. The Supreme Court’s decision demonstrates that the Court is willing to overstep, as it has in the past, the limited role granted to it by the Constitution, in order to promote a social outcome it finds desirable. Such a decision undermines the authority of Congress and the legitimacy of the Court.


While the Supreme Court has settled the case of King v. Burwell, the problems that this one small piece of legislative language has caused—economically and jurisprudentially—should remind us of the significant problems that remain in the Affordable Care Act. While the need for authentic health care reform was apparent long before the Act was approved in 2010, the legislation was poorly drafted and hastily passed in a partisan manner. The confusion about how health insurance should be subsidized pales in comparison with other significant errors written into the Act. We object above all to its provisions for federal funding of abortion, its inadequate protection of conscience rights and religious freedom, and its concentration of health care control in the federal government, which increases the costs of care while disrupting the relationship between patients, doctors, and insurers. These problems are significant and should be addressed promptly and appropriately by the President and Congress through amendment of the Act.


The National Catholic Bioethics Center commits itself to working collaboratively with others to advance health care delivery and promote the health insurance reforms required to provide effective and ethical care for all, especially the most vulnerable in our society. The Center was established in 1972 to promote and safeguard the dignity of the human person in health care and the life sciences. It is unique among bioethics organizations in that its message derives from the official teaching of the Catholic Church, which draws from a moral tradition that acknowledges the unity of faith and reason while building on the solid foundation of natural law.