The Catholic bishops of the United States have continually emphasized that the right to adequate health care “flows from the sanctity of human life,” a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin bishops has noted.
Minnesota Catholic Conference policy director Alexandra Fitzsimmons has said that previous documents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on health care are relevant to the present debate about proposals for reform, the Catholic Spirit reports.
“We cannot let go of the principle that really is why we believe that health care is a basic right,” she said.
Health care reform without respect for life is “empty,” she remarked, which is why Catholics cannot compromise on the abortion issue.
A 1993 USCCB resolution, titled “A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform,” stated that everyone has a right to “adequate health care.”
“This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God,” the document explained.
The bishops’ resolution listed eight criteria for health care reform, including respect for life from conception to natural death, priority concern for the poor, cost restraint, pursuing the common good while preserving pluralism, and universal access for everyone living in the United States, the Catholic Spirit says.
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, N.Y. in a July 2009 letter to Congress said the bishops want to support health care reform.
“We have in the past and we always must insist that health care reform excludes abortion coverage or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of human life,” added the bishop, who is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis John Nienstedt, writing in his August 27 column in the Catholic Spirit, has said health care reform legislation has “far-reaching moral implications.”
“What it permits and what it disallows speaks volumes about the values that we hold dear and are willing to fight to defend,” he added.
President Obama in his Sept. 9 speech said that his health care proposal will not fund abortions with federal dollars and will leave federal conscience protections intact.
However, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said that legislative proposals such as H.R. 3200 and the recent proposal of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have “the same unacceptable language.”
Rep. Lois Capps’ amendment would require a public health insurance option to cover all abortions eligible for federal funding under the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother’s life.
The proposal would also grant the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the authority to mandate federally funded coverage for abortions in the public plan not eligible for funding under the Hyde Amendment.
Fitzsimmons said that tax credits designed to help low-income people pay their insurance premiums will also subsidize abortions in private plans that cover abortions, the Catholic Spirit reports.
The Capps Amendment says that these credits should not be used to pay for elective abortions, but Fitzsimmons said that this is merely a segregation of funds that will not achieve its stated aim.