Catholic Health Association: Not Endorsing Health Care Bill, Wants Abortion Out

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 28, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Health Association: Not Endorsing Health Care Bill, Wants Abortion Out

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 28
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Catholic Health Association released a statement on Friday saying it is not officially endorsing the government-run health care bills currently pending in Congress. The CHA says it can’t endorse either the House or Senate bills because they do not specifically exclude abortions.

The head of the CHA says in a statement received that her group would like to support health care "reform" but says legislation can’t be supported if it expands abortions.

"Our message has always been clear," says Sister Carol Keehan, president of the group. "Health care must respect and protect human dignity from conception to natural death. In that spirit, coverage for everyone is a moral imperative and a matter of social justice."

"To date, CHA has not endorsed any health care reform bill, but our message to lawmakers is unchanged," Keehan added.

"Health reform should not result in an expansion of abortion, and it must maintain conscience protections for health care providers who do not want to participate in abortions or other morally objectionable procedures," Keehan stressed.

Keehan says the CHA position on the legislation Congress is considering conforms to the set of principles CHA put forward in its "Vision For U.S. Health Care" document. It begins with values from Catholic social teaching including human dignity, justice and the common good.

The group says it is working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to bring about health reform "that respects the life and dignity of every person, from conception to natural death."

"This means care that respects the unborn, the patient with multiple sclerosis, the person living with cancer, the young mother, the addicted, the mentally ill, the frail elderly, the dying patient," the group said.

The statement comes at a time when the Catholic Health Association is drawing criticism from some pro-life Catholics who say it has put a push for health care ahead of protecting human life.

Earlier, it appeared CHA joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities USA in backing the legislation despite the abortion concerns.

The three groups sent out an action alert asking members to contact their legislators immediately.

"Please call and e-mail your Representative in the next 24 hours expressing your support for Congress to enact health care reform now," the groups said in a joint action alert at the end of July.

"Saint Vincent de Paul is partnering with Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association to amplify our collective voice to let Congress know that health care reform can not wait," the alert said.

The statement continues, "Your members of Congress need to hear from you that you support health care reform, and that the system needs to be reformed now."

In an email received, Catholic Charities USA clarified and explained its position.

"Let there be no doubt, Catholic Charities USA does not support nor will it support any provision or amendment that fails to uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life," she said.

"Furthermore, we will continue to work with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association to ensure that any legislation will continue to support conscience clause protection for health care workers and to ensure that the Hyde exception that no abortion can be funded with federal funds will continue," she added.

The nation’s Catholic bishops have made it clear they cant support any health care package that includes abortion funding and rationing.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made that clear when Bishop William Murphy wrote a letter, both to Congress and released to the public, saying abortion can’t be a part of health care reform.

"No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion," his letter said.

"Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation," it added.

Since then, USCCB officials have sent two more letters outlining their problems with the current bill.

Bishop Murphy went on to say, "Health care reform cannot be a vehicle for abandoning this consensus which respects freedom of conscience and honors our best American traditions."

The CHA position of not endorsing a bill and pushing for abortion exclusions is different from that taken by the Catholic Medical Association, which has announced it opposes the government-run health care bills in Congress because the House version contains a section that could promote assisted suicide and rationing.

John Brehany, a medical ethicist who directs the CMA, said his grump would have to withdraw support until "it is clear that such consultation would be voluntary and that other safeguards are in place to protect the elderly against pressure to forgo legitimate medical treatment and care."

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