US Bishops: Abortion Isn't Health Care. Send Urgent Message to Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Keep abortion funding out of health care reform. That is the key message the U.S. episcopal conference communicated today in an urgent letter sent to the nation's House of Representatives.
In the letter, sent as House members debated procedures related to abortion and the health care reform bill, the bishops "strongly urge" the lawmakers to "vote for essential changes and a fair process in the House of Representatives to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all."
The letter was signed by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the bishops' Domestic Justice Committee; Cardinal Justin Rigali, chair of the Committee on Pro-life Activities; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the Committee on Migration.
In particular, the bishops call for support of an amendment that would keep in place "current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections and to oppose a closed rule that would prevent the House from voting on this crucial matter."
The letter explains that the Church is concerned "because the current legislation before the House of Representatives fails to keep in place the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortion or for plans that include elective abortion -- a policy upheld by the Hyde Amendment, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and other federal health initiatives."
"Without such protection we will have to oppose the current legislation until this fundamental flaw is remedied," they warn.
The bishops ask lawmakers to vote for an amendment to the current bill "that will keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding for elective abortions or for plans which include elective abortions."
"To accomplish this we also urge you to support efforts to guarantee that the House will have a clear and fair opportunity to vote on this essential matter," they added.
Some in the House are seeking a "closed rule," a procedure banning amendments from the bill.
Not as promised
The bill as it currently stands, the bishops explain, "allows the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate that any 'public option' will include unlimited abortions. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed that all money paid out by this plan for medical procedures will be federal outlays.
"Federal subsidies will also be used to pay the overall costs of establishing and maintaining private health plans that cover elective abortions. Millions of purchasers will be forced to use their premium dollars for abortion coverage they do not want, through a new mandatory fee."
The bishops affirm that the "abortion surcharge" would result in many pro-life Americans having to pay "directly and explicitly for abortion coverage."
They add that this is "unprecedented in federal law," and that it runs "counter to the principles of the long-standing Hyde Amendment."
The bishops add: "Thus far, H.R. 3962 does not meet President [Barack] Obama's commitment of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.
"While Section 259 of the bill maintains essential nondiscrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion, the legislation also requires each region of the insurance exchange to include at least one health plan with unlimited abortion, contrary to the policy of all other federal health programs; and conscience protection on issues beyond abortion have yet to be included in this bill."
Immigrants and poor
The bishops also addressed other health care issues, and asked for reform that would benefit immigrants, regardless of legal status, and the removal of the five-year ban that prevents legal immigrants from accessing Medicaid and other federal health-care programs.
The bishops also called for support of provisions that would make health care more accessible for the poor and vulnerable, especially to the elderly.
"The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long supported adequate and affordable health care for all," they noted. "We believe universal coverage should be truly universal, not denying health care to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here."