23-November-2009 -- Catholic World News Brief |

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U.S. Bishops Call Senate Health Bill "An Enormous Disappointment"

November 23, 2009

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City are urging US senators to change provisions of the Senate’s health care reform legislation so that taxpayers and religious insitutions would not be compelled to fund abortions. The US Senate voted 60-39 on November 21 to permit debate on the measure.

“Thus far, the pending Senate bill does not live up to President Obama’s commitment of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws,” the bishops write. “The bill provides federal funding for plans that cover abortion, and creates an unprecedented mandatory ‘abortion surcharge’ in such plans that will require pro-life purchasers to pay directly and explicitly for other people’s abortions.”

The bishops added:

Its version of a public health plan (the “community health insurance plan”) allows the Secretary of HHS to mandate coverage of unlimited abortions nationwide, and also allows each state to mandate such abortion coverage for all state residents taking part in this federal program even if the Secretary does not do so. The bill seriously weakens the current nondiscrimination policy protecting providers who decline involvement in abortion, providing stronger protection for facilities that perform and promote abortion than for those which do not. The legislation requires each region of the insurance exchange to include at least one health plan with unlimited abortion, contrary to the policy of all other federal health programs. Finally, critically important conscience protections on issues beyond abortion have yet to be included in the bill. To take just one example, the bill fails to ensure that even religious institutions would retain the freedom to offer their own employees health insurance coverage that conforms to the institution’s teaching. On these various issues the new Senate bill is an enormous disappointment, creating new and completely unacceptable federal policy that endangers human life and rights of conscience. The bishops also called upon senators to “protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access” and “include strong provisions for adequate affordability and coverage standards.”

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