WASHINGTON (CNS) – While welcoming a “good-faith effort” by Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey to improve the treatment of abortion in the Senate’s health reform legislation, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities said a “fundamental problem” remains that makes the bill morally unacceptable.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would continue to oppose the Senate legislation “unless and until” it is amended to “comply with long-standing Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”

Casey, a Catholic Democrat, has proposed language that he says would permit inspaniduals to opt out of abortion coverage in any policy offered in a health-care exchange and would require segregation of funds in the exchange so that federal subsidies are not used to pay for abortions.

But Cardinal DiNardo said Casey’s “good-faith effort to allow inspaniduals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy.”

“Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that inspaniduals should have to seek as the exception to the norm,” he added. “In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm.”

The cardinal also praised provisions in the Casey amendment to improve conscience protections and to support pregnant women and adoptive parents.

“However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill” – its failure to incorporate current abortion restrictions under the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion except in a few limited circumstances.

“We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied,” he added.