US Bishops Call for “Abortion Neutral” Health Care Reform

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to amend their health care reform bill (H.R. 3200) to retain longstanding government policies on abortion and conscience rights.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote a letter to Committee members on July 29 enumerating several problems with the existing bill:

1. It would be used to mandate abortion coverage in private health plans

2. It expands abortion funding

3. It overrides state laws that limit abortion

4. It endangers existing laws that protect 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,” the Cardinal 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.”

He added: “Several federal laws have long protected the conscience rights of health care providers. 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.”

In the letter, the Cardinal also reiterates the 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.  In this letter, Bishop Murphy 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 closed his letter 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 the Cardinal’s letter is available at:

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