US Bishops Urge Bipartisanship in Health Care Debate

Call for Reform that Protects Life, Consciences

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WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 24, 2010 ( As lawmakers prepare for Thursday’s White House Health Care Summit, the U.S. Bishops are calling for a commitment to «genuine health care reform that will protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.”

In a letter sent today to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the U.S. bishops’ conference also cited their longtime support of adequate and affordable health care for all, calling health care a basic human right.

The letter was signed on behalf of the conference by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah, chair of the Committee on Migration.

«It is time to set aside partisan divisions and special interest pressures to find ways to enact genuine reform. We encourage the administration and Congress to work in a bipartisan manner marked by political courage, vision and leadership,» the bishops said.

«As pastors and teachers,» the letter continued, «we believe genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, not threaten them, especially for the voiceless and vulnerable. We believe health care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, purchasers of insurance and others, not violate them.

«We believe universal coverage should be truly universal and should not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here. Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.»
«We hope and pray,» the letter added, «that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.»

President Barack Obama will preside at the summit, to which he has invited 22 lawmakers representing both Democrats and Republicans. The president has said he hopes to moderate a discussion on a bipartisan solution to the nation’s current health care debate.

The issue has been at the center of a national debate since Obama made it a priority during his first year as president.

After the Democratic-majority House approved its bill on Nov. 7, and the also Democratic-majority Senate passed its own proposal for reform on Dec. 24, the bills were set to be combined and voted on in January.

However, a senatorial election in Massachusetts upset the Democratic 60-seat majority, giving the Republicans enough votes to block the legislation, which has brought the process to a halt.

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