USCCB: We will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously

Washington, U.S.A, oct.09, 2009 - The leadership of the US bishops' conference has issued a clear statement of opposition to the heath-care reform legislation pending in Congress.

In a joint letter to Congress, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishops William Murphy and John Wester said expressed their "disappointment" that the legislation did not incorporate safeguards to prevent taxpayer subsidies for abortion, to protect the consciences of health-care workers, and to cover the needs of legal immigrants. These problems make the legislation unacceptable in its present form, they said.

The prelates' letter emphasized that the Church regards health care as a fundamental right, and reminded lawmakers that the US bishops have consistently supported efforts to provide comprehensive health care for all American citizens. However, the legislation must incorporate fundamental principles of justice, they said. "If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”

"No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion," the bishops wrote. While holding out some hope that amendments could bring the legislation into line with Catholic social teaching, the bishops said they were "apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”?

In a related development, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the bishops' criticism was off the mark, because the health-care reform bill would not include coverage for abortions. He argued that the legislation would come under the provisions of the "Hyde Amendment," which bars federal support for abortion. But the National Right to Life Committee quickly responded with a statement that Gibbs was inaccurate. “Neither the Hyde Amendment nor any other existing restriction will govern the provisions of the pending health care bills that are the focus of the abortion-related concerns,” the group said.

The three Catholic prelates who signed the letter to Congress, Cardinal Rigali and Bishops Murphy and Wester, chair the US bishops' committees on pro-life affairs, justice and peace, and immigration, respectively.

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