Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) wrote on July 29 to the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging them to amend “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act” (H.R. 3200) to retain longstanding government policies on abortion and conscience rights.
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 Cardinal 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.”
The Cardinal closed by urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support amendments by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) to address these problems in H.R. 3200. The full text of his letter is available at: www.usccb.org/prolife/CardRigali-AbortionNeutralReform-7-29-09.pdf.