By Barb Arland-Fye
All parishes in the Diocese of Davenport are among 19,000 parishes nationwide receiving an urgent appeal concerning health care reform from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The USCCB last week sent out bulletin inserts to the parishes that urge Catholics to ask Congress to support health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all, from the moment of conception until natural death. Current bills are “seriously deficient on abortion and conscience rights, and do not provide adequate health care for immigrants and the poor,” the bishops say.
Bishop Martin Amos, a USCCB member, sent a separate memo Oct. 29 to pastors in the Davenport Diocese, asking for their support in this effort.
“For many years, the U.S. bishops have supported decent health care for all, based on our teaching that health care is essential for human life and dignity and our community’s experience in providing health care and assisting those without coverage. We have always insisted that health care reform must protect life, not threaten it and that it cannot be used as a vehicle to advance abortion.
“Specifically, we have clearly required that longstanding federal protections that restrict abortion funding and mandates that protect conscience rights must be reflected in health care reform legislation. In addition, we have also focused on efforts to ensure that coverage is affordable and that immigrants have better health care as a result of reform. The USCCB principles and priorities are outlined in a series of letters to Congress, fact sheets and other materials on the USCCB health care reform Web site (www.usccb.org/healthcare).
“The debate and decisions on health care reform are reaching decisive moments. The USCCB is asking for our special help in activating our Catholic people. I support this request,” Bishop Amos said. He asked the pastors to:
• Distribute the USCCB’s “Bulletin Insert” in every parish bulletin and/or pews or at church entrances and maintain a supply of the insert in the back of the church for the next several weeks.
•Ensure pulpit announcements are made on the weekend when the bulletin insert is distributed, as well as the following weekend in order to stress the urgency with which parishioners need to respond in sending a message to Congress.
• Add a special prayer petition/prayer of the faithful during Mass up to the time Congressional votes on health care legislation occur.
• Direct people to the USCCB health care reform Web site for updates, additional tools and resources and to Glenn Leach, a volunteer in the diocese’s Social Action Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) for local insight and updates.
• Encourage people to pray that Congress act to ensure that needed health care reform will truly protect life, dignity and health care of all and to protect the unborn.
The USCCB distributed the bulletin insert to dioceses Oct. 29, the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other House leaders unveiled an $894 billion health care reform bill called the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
The House measure combines bills passed by three committees in July into one piece of legislation that members were to begin debating on the House floor in early November. Floor action on the U.S. Senate bill had not yet been announced.
The U.S. bishops have criticized the Senate measure for not explicitly barring funding of abortion coverage. The House bill also does not resolve the issue of abortion coverage.
The insert highlights an amendment sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., which “addresses essential pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights.”
“The bishops want health care reform, but they recoil at any expansion of abortion,” said Helen Osman, USCCB communications secretary. “Most Americans don’t want to pay for other people’s abortions via health care either.
“This impasse on the road to reform of health care can be broken if Congress writes in language that assures that the Hyde amendment law continues to guide U.S. federal spending policy,” she said.
The Hyde amendment bars funding of abortion in the spending bills for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and in military hospitals, federal employees’ health benefits, foreign assistance and other circumstances.
(Catholic News Service contributed to this story.)