Cardinal: Make Health Care Abortion-Neutral

Requests That Reform Not Be Used for Anti-Life Agenda

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 31, 2009 ( The U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on Pro-Life Activities Chairman is urging lawmakers to amend a health care reform proposal so that it respects life and conscience rights.

Cardinal Justin Rigali affirmed this in a July 29 letter addressed to members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, who are currently debating «America’s Affordable Health Choices Act» (H.R. 3200).

He underlined the principles already stressed by his colleague, Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a July 17 letter to all congressmen.

The cardinal affirmed that the conference views health care «as a basic right belonging to all human beings, from conception to natural death» and therefore supports «universal health care reform.»

This reform should respect human life and dignity, provide access for all — especially immigrants and the poor — preserve pluralism with respect for conscience rights and restrain costs, he stated.

However, Cardinal Rigali added, «much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding.»

The prelate urged the representatives to make this legislation «abortion neutral» by «preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.»

He underlined several problems that must be addressed in the proposed act.

Under the act, the cardinal noted, abortion coverage in private health care packages could be mandated, and federal abortion funding would increase.

He added that this act would invalidate state laws that regulate abortions and endanger laws that protect conscience rights of health care workers.

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Cardinal Rigali affirmed that «President Obama recently stated that he accepts these current laws and will do nothing to weaken them.»

He added, «Congress should make the same pledge, by ensuring that this legislation will maintain protection for conscience rights.»

«By your actions on these issues,» the cardinal told the lawmakers, «you have the ability to help reform our health care system in a way that will truly serve the poor and needy and uphold the dignity of all.»

Thursday evening, an anti-abortion amendment to the act was passed, but was then rejected in a re-vote a couple of hours later.

This amendment would have specified that the health care act would not be able to require coverage of abortion except in special cases.

A new proposal, which later passed with a small majority vote from the committee, regulates federal funding for abortion.

It also stated that although health care plans are not required to pay for abortions, every region should have at least one plan that does.

The committee will break for a recess during the month of August, along with all congressmen, and will resume the discussion on this act in September.

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On the Net:

Cardinal Rigali’s letter:

Bishop Murphy’s letter:

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