The Question Hilda Solis Won't Answer

Terry Jeffrey

10/5/2011 12:01:00 AM - Terry Jeffrey
I followed along on a short tour that Catholic University gave on Tuesday to Hilda Solis, President Barack Obama's Catholic secretary of labor, who has spent much of her political career zealously advocating legalized abortion.

When Solis served in the U.S. House in 2003, she voted against the partial-birth abortion ban. The day President Bush signed it, she called for the Supreme Court to reverse it. "I would just like to say it's the wrong decision that the president is making today," Solis said, "and we have to stand up and challenge him."

On the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2004, Solis celebrated three decades of abortion on demand.

"I'll take a pro-choice president, a pro-choice House, a pro-choice Senate," she said that day. "And I look forward to the day again when ... we can build a majority so that anti-choice legislation won't even come to the floor."

In 2009, when the nation was debating Obama's health care plan, Solis, now in the Cabinet, told the AFL-CIO convention that people who said the plan would fund abortion were lying.

"Don't believe the misinformation and distortions perpetrated by those whose agenda is only to kill reform at any cost, like that we plan to ... use federal dollars to fund abortions," Solis said. "These are lies and, as the president said, he is going to call them out."

Tuesday was beautiful day at Catholic University. The sun glittered off the dome of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

At 12:30 p.m., Solis showed up at the side of Father Michael McGivney Hall, where a plaque notes the role of the building's namesake in founding the Knights of Columbus.

Solis, her small entourage, Catholic University President John Garvey, a handful of reporters and a few others entered the building.

Inside, a sign indicated the building was home to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family.

The group descended to a pair of basement classrooms. In the first, eight adult students listened as an instructor used a projected computer screen to teach them how to properly fill out an electronic form -- in strict accordance with rules promulgated by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

If you don't do it right, she warned, the doctor won't get paid.

At the back of the room, a small crucifix hung on the wall.

Solis chatted with the students, two of whom said they worked at Providence Hospital, a local Catholic facility.

In the second classroom, one doctor from Providence used a projected computer screen to instruct five others on how to use an electronic health record.

All the doctors wore photogenic white lab coats. Here, too, a small crucifix hung on the back wall. Solis chatted with this class, too.

Soon, the group crossed the street to Father O'Connell Hall, where Solis held a press conference. She was introduced by Garvey, which could have been awkward.

Garvey had just published a powerful op-ed in The Washington Post attacking regulations the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed under Obamacare that would require all private health plans to cover sterilizations and all contraceptives approved by the FDA -- including those that cause abortions.

"If we comply, as the law requires, we will be helping our students do things that we teach them, in our classes and in our sacraments, are sinful -- sometimes gravely so," wrote Garvey. "It seems to us that a proper respect for religious liberty would warrant an exemption for our university and other institutions like it."

The regulation would also force individual lay Catholics -- mandated by Obamacare to buy health insurance -- to either break the law or act against their consciences.

Garvey did not mention this while giving Solis a graceful introduction.

Solis said her department was issuing $159 million in grants. "The grants will provide education, training and job-placement assistance related to high-growth fields in which employers are currently using the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program to hire foreign workers, such as advanced manufacturing, energy, health care and information technology," explained a Labor Department press release.

Catholic University will receive about $4.2 million of this money. After her address, I asked Solis a question, prefaced with references to the proposed Obamacare regulation and Garvey's op-ed.

"A week ago, the Catholic bishops asked Catholics to contact the administration and indicate their opposition to this, and they described it as 'an unprecedented attack on religious liberty,'" I asked. "Do you agree with the Catholic bishops that this regulation is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty?"

Now, the outspoken Hilda Solis, who called for overturning the partial-birth abortion ban and electing an entirely "pro-choice" government, was not to be found.

"I'm here today to talk about our investments in furthering the education and research and to help patients. And that's why I'm here," Solis told me, evading the question. "So, I'm not privy to that discussion. I'm here to announce our grants, and I'm very excited about the partnership we have with Catholic University and private industry."

Catholic University Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Victor Nakas told me, "President Garvey has expressed his views on this topic, so our position is clear."

I asked Nakas why the university had invited a pro-abortion political figure to campus.

"The secretary is here to announce a grant that has to do with health-and-information technology education," he said. "We are not honoring her. We are not providing a platform for her to espouse views that are contrary to the mission of the church. We invited her for a specific purpose."

By defending Obamacare, serving in the Obama Cabinet and not opposing the sterilization-and-contraception regulation, Solis has taken her stand -- even if she will not speak it out loud.