The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) sent the following letter to U.S. Senators Robert Casey and Arlen Specter and the rest of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation regarding health care reform:
By this point in time, undoubtedly, you have received many communications about the vital issue of health care reform. The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference feel it is important now, as Congress is in recess, to contact you and all other members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to share ideas about health care reform. We also want to state with absolute clarity our special concerns about the possibility that health care reform, as some envision it, will directly or indirectly advance or promote abortion.
Years ago, the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) developed a Vision for Health Care Reform that was endorsed by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC). A copy is attached. PCHA is a statewide organization that represents the Catholic health ministry in public policy matters and is closely aligned with PCC, the public affairs arm of the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania. PCC was established by, and under the authority of the Bishops of the Latin Rite Province of Philadelphia, and the Byzantine rite archeparchies whose SEE CITIES are in Pennsylvania.
That Vision is the framework used by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania to advocate for a change in the health care system with special emphasis on the most vulnerable, including the poor and the elderly. The principles set forth in the Vision must, in our view, be adequately addressed in a final health care reform initiative. As you review the important points noted in that Vision, please also consider thoughtful messages about health care reform which you have received, or heard about, from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA).
As crucial as health care reform is, a principal reason for this letter is to join the voices of others concerning the use of health care reform initiatives as a means to advance the interests of abortion supporters. While PCHA and PCC support health reform efforts, we oppose provisions that would undermine longstanding policies which have prevented government promotion of abortion and respected conscience rights.
Recently, Justin Cardinal Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, in his role as Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, had written to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with special concerns expressed relative to H.R. 3200. We enclose a copy of Cardinal Rigali’s letter for your careful consideration, and, especially because he is also the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. The Cardinal succinctly notes a number of issues about that bill (which are equally applicable to other forms of health care reform legislation being discussed in Washington). We urge you to specifically address them. While the task of legislating is never an easy one, there is a need for Congress to be absolutely precise in assuring that existing policies against abortion funding, that protect conscience rights, and which prevent a mandate for abortion coverage, are not undermined. In these critical areas, nothing should be left to chance, interpretation or administrative whim.
As you know, there have been many statements made about what some have called a “death panel” to be created as part of health care reform. PCHA and PCC do not embrace those types of characterizations. But we do want to emphasize that the interests of the elderly, the chronically ill and the profoundly disabled must not be adversely affected by judgments which focus on a person’s “worth” or “value to society” as a measure of the level of care they should receive. “Quality of life” would be another dangerous standard by which third parties would assess what type and cost of medical care makes sense for some of the most vulnerable in the population. PCHA and PCC contend that health care reform must respect the dignity of human life not only from the moment of conception, but also to the moment of natural death.
PCHA and PCC urge you to please commit to supporting efforts to address the types of issues highlighted by Cardinal Rigali. In doing so, you will provide a means to achieve the Vision of Health Care Reform so thoroughly embraced by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. May God continue to bless you and all your efforts on behalf of the citizens of our Commonwealth and all Americans.
Citizens can send a message to Congress about health care reform with the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network.