.- The U.S. Senate must ensure that health care legislation remains “abortion neutral” by adding a Stupak Amendment to the proposed bill, Bishop of Orlando, Florida Thomas G. Wenski has said. Health care reform is too important to be “hijacked” by “destructive agendas” like government-mandated abortion. Bishop Wenski, writing in a Nov. 20 column for the Orlando Sentinel, said that Catholic bishops have supported health care for years. “Access to health care is a human right,” he said.
The bishops also recognize the “sad reality” that abortion is legal and offered as optional coverage by insurers, he wrote.
“However, we insist that health-care-reform legislation under consideration does not become a vehicle for government-required payments for abortion or abortion mandates.”
Reporting that the bishops were “heartened” when President Barack Obama said that no federal dollars would be used to fund abortions, the bishop said the legislation did not meet this pledge until the U.S. House passed the Stupak Amendment on Nov. 7.
“This amendment assures that Americans are not forced to pay for the destruction of unborn children as part of needed health-care reform,” he continued. The prelate reported that 67 percent of U.S. adults oppose requiring people to pay for abortion coverage and 56 percent oppose doing so through insurance premiums.
Bishop Wenski said that it is “critical” that the Senate adopt the Stupak Amendment language so that no one is required to pay for or participate in abortion.
He also advocated the continuation of the Church Amendment, which protects objecting health care providers from being forced to provide abortions and sterilizations. The bishop praised the the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for its exemption of religiously affiliated plans from a federal mandate to provide contraceptive coverage.
Other “essential moral priorities” for the health care reform are conscience protections, more affordable and accessible health coverage, and protecting immigrants’ health care coverage.
“Even American families of modest means under current provisions in the Senate version would be required to spend more money than they could afford for health-care coverage,” he added.
Though the bishops have long supported health care reform, Bishop Wenski concluded his essay, “no new legislation would be better than bad legislation.”
“Any final bill that does not maintain the well-established policy against federal funding of abortion would demand our vigorous opposition. We still advocate for genuine health-care reform — a bill that protects the life and dignity, the consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”