.- Officials with the U.S. bishops’ conference said that proposed health care reform legislation remains “deeply flawed” on pro-life issues, though they praised the bill for making health care more affordable to at-risk families.
The Senate Finance Committee rejected pro-life amendments proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had supported.
One proposal would have forbidden federal subsidies for benefits packages that cover abortions, with rare exceptions. Insurers could have offered supplemental abortion policies if they were funded solely by private premiums of those choosing to purchase them.
Another amendment proposed by Sen. Hatch would have forbidden federal agencies and state and local governments receiving federal funds under this bill to discriminate against health care providers that decline to perform, refer for, or pay for abortions.
“The bill remains deeply flawed on these issues and must be corrected,” Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said in a statement.
He said it was “especially disheartening” that the committee did not support “longstanding conscience language” on abortion that has been accepted as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health care reform bill.
In a recent letter to the Senate, the USCCB said that the various health care reform bills have not met President Barack Obama’s pledges to bar federal dollars from paying for abortions and to maintain current conscience laws.
Kathy Saile, USCCB Director of Domestic Social Development, said the bill took steps towards making health care more affordable, but explained that many families are still vulnerable to high health care costs.
“As Congress continues to debate health care reform, it should take further steps to help at-risk poor and low-income families and implement access as soon as possible,” Saile commented, suggesting that access to programs like Medicaid should be expanded as soon as possible.
The Senate Finance Committee also defeated amendments which would have placed additional restrictions on health care access for legal immigrants and their families.
“Legal immigrants, who work hard and pay taxes, should be treated equally with U.S. citizens,” stated Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the USCCB. Appleby said it was “counterproductive” for the public health system to leave immigrants outside the system and thereby making them dependent upon emergency care and unable to access preventive treatment.
“The U.S. bishops will continue to push for affordability grants to legal immigrants and their families and a removal of the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to access Medicaid,” he added.