Bishops urge local Catholics to make their voices heard on health care reform

The U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Health care reform should not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country.

On Nov. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.

On Dec. 24, the U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion.

Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.

These two bills must now be combined into one bill that both the House and Senate will vote on in final form. Provisions against abortion funding and in favor of conscience protection, affordability, and immigrants’ access to health care must be part of a fair and just health care reform bill, or the final bill must be opposed.

The New Jersey bishops are urging Catholics to contact their representative and senators by e-mail, phone or fax:

— To send a pre-written, instant e-mail to Congress go to www.usccb.org/action.

— Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.

— Contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at www.house.gov & www.senate.gov.

The message to the House:

“I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to assure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. Until and unless these criteria are met, I urge you to oppose the final bill.”

The message to the Senate:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate health care bill fails to maintain the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate protection for conscience. I urge you to support essential provisions against abortion funding, similar to those in the House bill. Include full conscience protection and assure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. Until and unless these criteria are met, I urge you to oppose the final bill.”

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