US Bishops Lament Politicization of Health Care

Will Oppose Bills That Allow Public Funding of Abortion

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- While the U.S. bishops affirm that health care reform should be a national priority, they lament the politicization of the process and vow to oppose legislation that provides public funding for abortion.

Kathy Saile, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development, said this in a video statement posted on the conference’s Web site, in what is the first comment to come from the episcopal conference since the Senate passed its version of health care reform legislation on Dec. 24.

In the days leading up to the final vote in the Senate, the bishops had sent several letters to Senate leaders expressing concern that the legislation was «deficient» and needed «essential changes.»

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, noted that the proposed reform fell short in «respect for life and conscience; affordability for the poor; and access to much-needed basic health care for immigrants.»

A major problem, he cited, was that the bill «explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history.»

National priority

«The US bishops have long advocated for authentic health care reform,» Saile affirmed. «Health care is a human right, and health care reform is a moral imperative and a national priority.

«The bishops believe that health care legislation should place a priority on the poor and vulnerable, which include low income families, immigrants, the sick, and the unborn. And legislation should protect people’s consciences.»

The spokeswoman noted that the U.S. bishops are «troubled» by the developments in the reform process, but acknowledged that both the Senate bill and that of the House of Representatives have elements that «do a great deal of good.»

«They cover millions of people who are now uninsured,» said Saile. «They help low income families with health care costs. And there are particular provisions to help pregnant women and their unborn children.»

«But,» she lamented, «this reform has been sadly politicized by efforts to expand funding for abortion.»

The conference spokeswoman said the bishops are not looking to «advance an agenda,» but simply see to «keep in place the longstanding policies of no federal funding of abortion.»

«If Congress disregards these policies in the final bill,» she said, «the bishops will have no choice but to oppose the legislation.»

«The bishops stand ready to assist our national leaders to help improve this bill so it meets the moral criteria of protecting lives, not destroying them,» said Saile. «With health care reform so badly needed, it would be a terrible tragedy to miss this opportunity.»

Campaign

In conjunction with the statement, the U.S. bishops launched a parish-based campaign to rally Catholics around the country to push for moral health care reform.

The campaign consists of prayers, bulletin inserts and pulpit announcements, as well as a Web site where people can lobby their legislators online with a few simple «clicks» on their computer.

The message is simple: «Stop abortion funding in health care reform! Protect conscience. Ensure affordable health coverage. Allow immigrants to purchase private health insurance.»

The bulletin insert affirms, «As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.»

«Health care reform should not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country,» it adds.

The conference explained that the bill approved by the Senate forces the purchasers of health care plans to pay for abortions.

The House bill rejects using federal funding for abortions, but both bills lack «adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers,» it added.

Now is the last opportunity for introducing revisions as the two bills are combined into one. A vote on the final draft is expected this month.

The insert stated that if certain changes are not made, including the pro-abortion items, «the final bill must be opposed.»

The bishops are encouraging Catholics to raise their voices to lobby for the reforms, and if moral revisions are not made, to urge legislators to reject the bill.

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On the Net:

Parish resources: www.usccb.org/healthcare

To contact legislators online: www.usccb.org/action

A searchable online version of the Senate’s reform bill is available here: http://www.marpx.com/

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