Catholic Bishops Ask Congress Not to Fund Abortions in Health Care Reform Plan

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 31, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Ask Congress Not to Fund Abortions in Health Care Reform Plan

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 31
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — With members of the House and Senate rejected amendment after amendment to stop taxpayer funding of abortions in the Congressional health care plans, the nation’s Catholic bishops have written a second letter imploring elected officials to do something.

The Catholic bishops say they are behind efforts to reform the health care system, but they say it must not be done on the backs of unborn children.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote a letter Wednesday that is now becoming public.

He urged lawmakers in the House to change H.R. 3200, the main House ill for a government-run health care system, to retain longstanding policies stopping taxpayer funding of abortion.

Cardinal Rigali reiterated criteria for “genuine health care reform” set forth by Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Policy, in his letter to Congress on July 17.

He described health care as “a basic right belonging to all human beings, from conception to natural death” and said that “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is working to ensure that needed health reform is not undermined by abandoning longstanding and widely supported policies against abortion funding and mandates and in favor of conscience protection.”

The Catholic leader enumerated several problems with the bill as introduced: It would be used to mandate abortion coverage in private health plans, expand abortion funding, override state laws that limit or regulate abortion, and endanger existing laws protecting the conscience rights of health care providers.

“Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding,” he wrote. “In this sense we urge you to make this legislation ‘abortion neutral’ by preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.”

“Several federal laws have long protected the conscience rights of health care providers,” Cardinal Rigali added.

“President Obama recently stated that he accepts these current laws and will do nothing to weaken them. Congress should make the same pledge, by ensuring that this legislation will maintain protection for conscience rights," he continued.

After the Rigali letter, during last night’s House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of HR 3200, lawmakers rejected an amendment to stop taxpayer funding of abortions.

They also adopted an amendment billed as a "common ground" compromise that would actually allow taxpayer funding of abortions under the health care plan.

Finally, the panel agreed to a conscience amendment to codify the Hyde/Weldon annual appropriations provision.

Related web sites:
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pro-life office –

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