On Nov. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Democratic leaders’ health-care-reform proposal, which included an amendment prohibiting federal funding for abortions. As the health-care-reform baton passes to the Senate, Bishop Matthew H. Clark and his colleagues in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are urging Catholics to contact their congressional representatives to voice their concerns about reform proposals.
The U.S. bishops contend that any health-care-reform legislation should include four fundamental principles related to conscience protection, affordability, abortion and the coverage of immigrants, according to a letter Bishop Clark asked parishes to distribute at Masses the weekend of Nov. 7-8.
On Oct. 29 the U.S. bishops sent bulletin inserts to almost 19,000 parishes across the country, urging Catholics not to let health-care reform be derailed by the abortion lobby.
“Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them,” the bishops stated in the insert. The bishops encouraged Catholics to let their congressional leaders know they support health-care-reform efforts that would “incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights.”
This was an unprecedented move for the bishops, noted Jann Armantrout, diocesan life-issues coordinator. Bishop Clark took this initiative one step further by penning his own letter to parishioners and outlining his concerns about health-care reform.
“As Congress begins the final debate of various health care reform bills, I want to underscore some fundamental principles that we Bishops are urging be included in any health care reform legislation,” Bishop Clark wrote.
Such legislation must include conscience protection for both individuals and institutions, so they may exempt themselves from performing such morally objectionable procedures as abortion or from providing insurance coverage for artificial contraception, he wrote. It also must ensure access for individuals and families of modest income, he added.
Final health-care-reform legislation also must clearly prohibit the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortion in any manner, and should remove barriers that currently prevent individuals and families legally residing in the United States from obtaining health-care coverage, Bishop Clark wrote.
“Because health care reform is so necessary, and doing it right is so important, I am urging you to convey to your Congressional representatives as soon as possible these four basic principles,” he stated in his letter.
Bishop Clark urged parishioners to do so either via personal letters or customizable e-mails that may be accessed and sent through the U.S. bishops’ Web site, www.usccb.org/healthcare. Bishop Clark included in his letter contact information for Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and six House members representing local communities.
This story was updated on Nov. 9, 2009.