Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa is one of the latest bishops to voice his belief that any health care bill that provides funding for abortion is unacceptable.
Writing in a guest column for the Des Moines Register, Bishop Pates said, "Health is among the most fundamental of human needs - right up there with food and shelter. Yet, in many ways, we leave it pretty much to chance, to a health-care 'system' that may, or may not, care for us depending on our ability to pay."
According to Bishop Pates, the greatest problem with America's health care situation is that it is the most expensive in the world, but at the same time fails to achieve "proportionate benefits."
"These are among the reasons why the Catholic Church, which consistently promotes respect for human life, heartily supports health-care reform. The status quo is just too expensive, too exclusive and too inconsistent in its outcomes. It hurts almost everyone, but especially the most vulnerable," he wrote.
However, despite the urgency of reforming the health care system, Bishop Pates insisted that "respect for human life obliges the church to oppose the inclusion of abortion in any funding that is part of such reform."
"Promoting and protecting human life and dignity by reforming health care shouldn't come at the expense of the lives of unborn children," he said, also calling for conscience protections for health care workers.
Addressing those who say a bishop has no reason to speak about matters of public policy, Bishop Pates responded that "caring for others was one of Jesus' principal commandments, and Catholics and other Christians have always been involved in providing care. The Sisters of Mercy, for example, established Mercy Hospital in Des Moines in 1893. It's the longest continually operating hospital in the state, and provides care to people of all faiths."
Instead of health care being a secular issue, "it is 'a fundamental issue of human life and dignity,' and a 'critical component of the Catholic Church's ministry,'" the Bishop of Des Moines said quoting Bishop William Murphy.