CORRECTED: Bishops to Senators: Bill Fails to Protect Life, Dignity, Consciences and Health of All

to the senators urging them to oppose the bill unless its moral flaws are corrected. The letter can be found here.

Among the bill’s problems:

The abortion provisions do not maintain this commitment to the legal status quo on abortion funding;

Federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions;

All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium payment designed solely to pay for abortion;

There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions;

States may opt out of this system only by passing legislation to prohibit abortion coverage;

The bill does not prevent governmental discrimination against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion;

The bill includes no conscience protection allowing Catholic and other institutions to provide and purchase health coverage consistent with their moral and religious convictions on other procedures;

The bill forbids undocumented immigrants from purchasing health care coverage in the exchange;

The bill maintains the five-year ban on legal immigrants accessing federal health benefit programs, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare; and

The bill still leaves over 23 million people in our nation without health insurance. This falls far short of what is needed in both policy and moral dimensions.

Contact Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and ask them to oppose the health care reform bill until these fundamental flaws are remedied.

Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
http://dorgan.senate.gov/contact/

Action Alert! Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Reform!

On November 7, during floor debate on the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), the House approved, 240 to 193, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, to enact a permanent ban on federal funding of elective abortions or health plans that include such abortions. The House then narrowly passed H.R. 3962.

The Senate is preparing for a vote on its health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). A final vote on cloture is expected on December 23 and the vote on passage is expected on December 24. On December 8, the Senate voted to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment, 54-yes, 45-no. This amendment, like the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, would prevent the legislation from mandating abortion coverage or providing federal funds for coverage that includes elective abortions.
Subsequently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced his Manager’s Amendment, which represents the health care reform bill that the Leader intends the Senate to pass. The abortion and conscience provisions in this proposal are not acceptable. In a December 22 letter to the Senate, the U.S. Bishops state that the Manager’s Amendment does not meet the three moral criteria articulated by the bishops throughout the debate: keeping in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protection; protecting access to health care that immigrants currently have and removing barriers to access; and including strong provisions for affordability and coverage standards. “Specifically, it violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions. . .” The bill also does not provide adequate conscience protection. The bishops strongly urged the Senate “not to move its current health care reform bill forward without incorporating essential changes to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.” The bishops conclude: “Until these fundamental flaws are remedied the bill should be opposed.” For the full text of this letter, see: nchla.org/docdisplay.asp?ID=313.
ACTION: Contact Members through e-mail, phone calls or FAX letters. 1) To send an e-mail, click here. 2) Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
http://dorgan.senate.gov/contact/

MESSAGE—SENATE: “The health care reform proposal now before the Senate violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions. It also fails to provide adequate conscience protection. Please do not move this bill forward at this time but continue to discuss and approve changes that would make it morally acceptable. If this does not occur, the bill should be opposed.”
WHEN: In the Senate a final vote on cloture is expected December 23 and the vote on passage is expected December 24. Thanks!

Health Reform Bill Needs More Work Despite New Language On Abortion, Say Catholic Bishops

Federal government must not expand its role enabling abortions

Bill should not go forward unless and until problems remedied

Protection of life, conscience rights; fairness to legal immigrants; affordability top issues

WASHINGTON–The Senate health reform bill should not move forward in its current form, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said December 19, as senators proceeded closer to a vote. Cardinal DiNardo chairs the bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities. Bishop Murphy chairs the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Wester chairs the bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“Yesterday the bishops commented on good-faith efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the pending Senate health care reform bill on the issues of abortion and conscience rights,” Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Murphy and Bishop Wester said. “Today a Manager’s Amendment was proposed to make final changes in that bill. The amendment includes some improvements from Senator Casey’s proposal, including adoption tax credits and assistance for pregnant women, but differs from that proposal in other ways: It does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to “opt out” of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage. Instead it will require purchasers of such plans to pay a distinct fee or surcharge which is extracted solely to help pay for other people’s abortions. Further the government agency that currently manages health coverage for federal employees will promote and help subsidize multi-state health plans that include elective abortions, contrary to longstanding law governing this agency.

Therefore, while we appreciate the good-faith efforts made by Senators Robert Casey and Ben Nelson (D-NE) to improve the bill, our judgment is the same as it was yesterday: This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed. The bishops’ conference continues to study that 383-page amendment’s implications from the perspective of all the bishops’ moral concerns — protection of life and conscience, affordable access to health care, and fairness to immigrants. We will continue to work vigorously for authentic health care reform that clearly reflects these fundamental principles because such reform is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.”

‘Abortion Compromise’ Does Not Address Core Problem In Senate Health Bill, Says Cardinal DiNardo, Bishops’ Pro-Life Chair -Update

‘Compromise’ would make citizens pay for others’ abortions Senate should mirror House of Representative’s Hyde amendment language Bill doesn’t meet goals of affordability, fairness to legal immigrants, protection of life

WASHINGTON—Responding to reports of a new “compromise” proposal on abortion in the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo today reaffirmed the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the legislation will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment. Cardinal DiNardo is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chairman of the Conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The Cardinal commented on efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the Senate bill’s treatment of abortion. “Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy. Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”

“I welcome Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to improve this bill, said Cardinal Dinardo.” In particular he has sought to improve protection for conscience rights, and to include programs of support for pregnant women and adoptive parents that we favor in their own right. However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”

Cardinal DiNardo had written to the Senate on December 14, saying that “the Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support authentic reform of our ailing health care system.” His letter cited “three moral criteria for reform: respect for life and conscience; affordability for the poor; and access to much-needed basic health care for immigrants,” noting that so far the Senate bill “has fallen short of the example set by the House version of this legislation in each of these areas.”

On abortion funding, the Cardinal urged the Senate to “incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself” when it approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for the new fiscal year on December 13. This Act reaffirmed the Hyde amendment and other laws that exclude elective abortions from health plans receiving federal funds — including the plans that cover the Senators themselves and all other federal employees. The Senate so far has failed to reflect this same policy in its health care bill as the House has done, he said [see www.usccb.org/healthcare/DiNardo_1214_letter.pdf].

Cardinal DiNardo said December 18: “We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied. And whatever the immediate outcome in the Senate, we will continue to work for health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. As the bishops have said many times, ‘providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.’ In particular we will work vigorously to ensure that the substance of the House’s provision on abortion funding is included in final legislation. A special debt of gratitude is owed to House and Senate members, especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who have placed their votes and reputation on the line to stand up for unborn children. Making this legislation consistent with longstanding federal law on abortion will not threaten needed authentic reform, but will help ensure its passage.”

Pope’s World Day of Peace Message

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI released the text of his annual message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2010. The Holy Father’s theme was at once simple and profound, “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.” In this moving message, Pope Benedict seamlessly weaves together concerns for peace, poverty and care for creation.

Pope Benedict teaches that “integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man’s relationship with the natural environment. The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.”

Attached you will find a resource to help local parishes, schools and campus ministries to explore the Holy Father’s teaching. It includes a bulletin insert, a primer on Catholic social teaching and the environment, a prayer, and stories from Catholic Relief Services that gives a face to the issues explored by the Pope Benedict in his message. A series of bulletin quotes will be available soon on JPHD’s World Day of Peace Web page at www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/worlddayofpeacewebsite.shtml.

Please use these resources to explore the poignant questions posed by our Holy Father:

Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?

In Christ’s Peace during this Advent Season,