WASHINGTON — None of the major health reform bills before Congress adequately addresses the concerns raised by the U.S. bishops in the areas of abortion, conscience protection, immigrants and affordability, said the heads of three major committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Oct. 8.
One of those major bills passed the Senate Finance Committee Oct. 13 in a 14-9 vote.
Efforts in the last several weeks to amend the Baucus bill to prohibit coverage of abortion funding and include a conscience protection clause for health care workers failed.
In their Oct. 8 letter to all members of Congress, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City said: “If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”
“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,” they added. “We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”
The three chair the USCCB committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Migration, respectively.
The bishops reiterated their earlier calls on Congress to ensure that any health reform plan:
— Exclude mandated coverage of abortions and incorporate long-standing federal policies against taxpayer-funded abortions and in favor of conscience rights.
— Make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone.
— Include effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society, with legal immigrants given “comprehensive, affordable and timely access to health care coverage” and an adequate safety net provided to others.