US Bishops' Aides Denounce Health Care Bills

Spokesmen on Life and Immigrant Issues Point to Faults

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 18, 2009 ( Health care reform is falling well short of its goals and even betraying policies that are widely supported by the American people, according to spokespersons for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Directors from three episcopal conference offices spoke out this week against the health care reform package in Congress.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, lamented that the legislation does not keep tax dollars from funding abortions.

«No current health care bill approved by committee is consistent with longstanding and widely supported federal policies on abortion and conscience rights,» he affirmed. «Contrary to recent misleading comments from some sources, this and other health care reform bills appropriate their own funds outside the scope of the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bills, and so are not covered by the Hyde amendment that prevents those bills from funding abortion coverage.»

<p>Meanwhile, Kathy Saile, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development, said the bill is not achieving its purpose.

Though she expressed hope that «problematic provisions» can be worked out; «time is running short,» she said.

«The stated purpose of pursuing health care reform was to provide those without health care coverage access to quality and affordable health care. There is real doubt that this bill will achieve that goal,» Saile affirmed.

And the legislation falls short in another area. Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Refugee Policy, decried that «millions of legal immigrants and their families would be left outside the system, dependent on emergency rooms for their primary care.»

Seeking reform

Bishops in the United States have long been seeking reform of the nation’s health care system.

In an Oct. 8 letter to Congress, three officials from the episcopal conference affirmed that «health care is a basic human right.»

Nevertheless, as explained by Samuel Gregg in an article for the Acton Institute, if health care legislation violates the inalienable right to life, it cannot be supported.

«No matter how good the rest of the legislation might be in, for example, widening access to affordable healthcare, it is a stable principle of Catholic faith — and natural law — that you cannot do evil in order that good may come from it,» Gregg explained. 

He went on to note that the best way to reform health care is a question of prudential judgement.

«Imagine the health care legislation submitted to Congress involved a massive expansion of government involvement in health care,» he wrote. «Let’s also suppose that the same legislation was stripped of any provisions that violated non-negotiables for Catholics. Would Catholics be obliged to support passage of such legislation?

«The answer is no. When it comes to how we achieve the good end of healthcare reform — such as making it more affordable, universal, and ensuring that the most marginalized are protected — there’s a legitimate diversity of views among Catholics.»

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On the Net: 

Full text of bishops’ Oct. 8 letter to Congress:

Full text of Samuel Gregg’s analysis:

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