By Barb Arland-Fye
My daily prayers include a petition to God for all people in this country to have access to affordable health care. But my prayers have fallen a bit short on specifics.
I received an e-mail Oct. 19 from Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference asking people to call their senators and representatives and tell them health care reform should respect the life and dignity of everyone.
While the House and Senate committees working on health care reform bills have completed their work, Chapman said none of those bills meet the test of ensuring federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, or protections for rights of conscience. (The latter would protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who decline to perform or make referrals for abortions.)
Our U.S. bishops have said that without such qualifications, reform of our health care system is unacceptable. An action alert from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states:
“In our Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right. Access to health care should not depend on where a person works, how much a family earns, or where a person lives. Instead, every person, created in the image and likeness of God, has a right to life and those things necessary to sustain life … Health care should be available to everyone from the moment of conception until natural death.” (For more information see www.usccb.org/healthcare.)
Chapman, the Iowa Catholic Conference’s executive director, says we should ask members of the U.S. House to:
• Support the Stupak Amendment that addresses pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights and a rule on the health care bill that allows members to vote on the amendment. If these serious concerns are not fixed, the final bill should be opposed until they are addressed.
• Adopt measures that protect and improve people’s health care. Reform should make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone, particularly those who are poor and vulnerable.
• Include effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society. Ensure that legal immigrants and their family members have comprehensive, affordable and timely access to health care coverage. Maintain an adequate safety net for those who remain uncovered.
We should ask our U.S. Senators to:
• Support a floor amendment to incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. The final bill should be opposed until these serious concerns are addressed.
Chapman says don’t forget to ask legislators where they stand on these bills and to thank them for their service to our country. You can call Congress at the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell them health care reform should respect the life and dignity of all people.
The Catholic Church ought to have a say in this issue because it is one of the largest providers of health care in the United States with 624 Catholic hospitals — including three in our diocese — and 499 long-term care nursing facilities.
Every year, Catholic health care facilities see more than 16.9 million emergency room visits, more than 92.7 million outpatient visits and 5.5 million admissions, according to the Catholic Health Association (www.catholichealthcare.us).
I intend to expand and supplement my prayer with an e-mail to my U.S. representative and senators asking for legislation that recognizes health care for the unborn to the dying.