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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 25, 2010
VOL. 48, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Catholic agencies rally to aid Haiti
 
Actions to save homes
Another Catholic mobilization
on abortion in health reform
 

Saying he remains “very concerned” about the current Congressional negotiations over health reform, Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone sent a letter to pastors Jan. 19 encouraging them to “activate” parishioners to lobby for health care reform that “protects the life, human dignity and health of all.”

He said the voices of constituents can have an important influence on the decisions of lawmakers.
“Our analysts are now telling us that a critical stage has been reached and it is more important than ever for Catholics to strongly express their concerns to members of Congress,” he wrote.

In the thousands of pages that make up the Affordable Health Care for America Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the House- and Senate-passed versions, respectively, of health reform legislation, the word “abortion” only comes up a few dozen times.

But as congressional leaders work to hammer out an agreement on health care reform, a key player in the U.S. bishops’ lobbying efforts thinks an insistence on expanding abortion funding in this country could sink the reform movement that the bishops have encouraged for decades.

“It’s a high-risk strategy” for Democratic leaders in Congress to work behind closed doors to reconcile the House and Senate health reform bills, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, told Catholic News Service Jan. 11.

If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid present a bill that has not been debated openly and say, “Take it or leave it,” Doerflinger added, “Congress may leave it.”

Throughout the process, Catholic leaders have been clear that they want to see the U.S. health system reformed but not in a way that expands abortion funding or leaves too many people behind.

“It’s very difficult to figure out even what’s going on” in the reconciliation process, said Doerflinger. “We hear very little about what’s getting worked out.”

Like Bishop Cordileone, bishops throughout the U.S. are mobilizing Catholics nation to tell their senators and representatives that the final health reform bill must not “advance a pro-abortion agenda” and must be “accessible and affordable for all,” including immigrants.

Another USCCB official is working to improve the final bill’s treatment of immigrants.

Kevin Appleby, director of migration and policy services in the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, said in a Jan. 13 telephone briefing with media that “Congress would be wise” to lift the current five-year ban on legal immigrants participating in federal health programs like Medicaid.

“Many of them will soon be Americans,” he said. “Why wait to give them good health?”

He and others participating in the briefing also advocated for allowing undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance through the state exchanges with their own money.

“Access to health care should not be governed by where someone was born but by their God-given dignity,” Appleby said.

The bulletin insert that the bishops have asked parishes nationwide to put out as soon as possible offers separate but similar messages for Catholics to send to their senators and representatives.

On the USCCB Web site at www.usccb.org/action, people can send a prewritten e-mail to members of Congress expressing those points.

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