.- Responding to the Senate Finance Committeeâs passage of a proposed health care reform bill, officials with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops say the bishops will have no choice but to oppose the bill. They cite the legislationâs shortfalls in health coverage and its lack of prohibitions on abortion funding.
By a 14-9 vote on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved its version of a health care reform bill. All the committeeâs Democrats voted in its favor, as did Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine).
A Wednesday press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reiterated the bishopsâ position that policies against abortion funding and protective of conscience rights must be in the bill.
The bishops also said health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable, while the needs of legal immigrants and their families should also be met.
Kathy Saile, Director of the USCCB Office of Domestic Social Development, said the USCCB remains hopeful that âproblematic provisionsâ can be worked out.
âBut time is running short and if the provisions are not fixed, the bishops have been clear that they will have no choice but to oppose a final bill,â Saile continued. âThe stated purpose of pursuing health care reform was to provide those without health care coverage access to quality and affordable health care. There is real doubt that this bill will achieve that goal.â
Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said that no current health care bill approved by committee is consistent with âlongstanding and widely supportedâ policies on abortion and conscience rights.
Reporting that some have made âmisleading commentsâ about abortion funding in proposed health care legislation, Doerflinger said that the Senate Finance Committeeâs bill and other bills appropriate their own funds and are outside the scope of the Hyde Amendment.
The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for almost all abortions, applies to the annual funding appropriations for the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Kevin Appleby, USCCB Director of Migration and Refugee Policy, charged that the bill falls âwell shortâ of the goal of significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans.
âAs passed out of the Finance Committee, millions of legal immigrants and their families would be left outside the system, dependent on emergency rooms for their primary care,â he said.
In an October 8 letter, the USCCB pledged to work âtirelesslyâ to remedy what it saw as the âcentral problemsâ of the bill.
To become law, the bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee must now pass the full U.S. Senate and then be reconciled with any version passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.