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U.S. Bishops Voice Concerns Over Current Health Care Bills

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Three chairmen of the Bishops’ committees working on health care reform urged the U.S. Congress to improve current health care reform legislation, expressing their “disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform” cited in their previous letters.

The October 8 letter from Bishop William Murphy, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop John Wester reiterated the Bishops’ main concerns: that no one should be forced to pay for or participate in an abortion, that health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable, and that the needs of legal immigrants are met.

Bishop Murphy, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Wester chair the U.S. Bishops’ committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Immigration, respectively.

The Bishops reaffirmed their commitment to working with Congress and the Administration toward genuine health care reform, but stated, “If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”

“We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” wrote the Bishops. “However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, in his homily on Respect Life Sunday, emphasized that “I stand in solidarity with my brother Bishops in stating that genuine health care reform is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.  The Bishops of the country have assured the President and his administration of our desire to work closely with them in reforming health care in a manner that offers accessible, affordable and quality health care for all people, especially the poor, the weak, the immigrant and the vulnerable.

“At the same time, we will always insist that health care reform excludes abortion coverage in any form, or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Are the Bishops of the Catholic Church for genuine health care reform? Yes! Are there any conditions? Yes: the gift of life must be welcomed with love and preserved always at every moment!”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The Bishops wrote that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”