Health care proposal’s ‘masked’ funding of abortion is ‘fatally flawed,’ Bishop Conley says

Bishop James Conley
Bishop James Conley


Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James D. Conley has said that the health care reform proposal currently advancing in Congress is “fatally flawed” because Congress has ignored or rejected “serious concerns” about federal funding for abortion, broad access to health care and financial sustainability.

The proposed health care reform is not only “inadequate and baffling” but “insulting and dangerous,” Bishop Conley wrote in an essay posted Friday on the website of the journal First Things.

In the Church’s view, he said, access to basic health care is “a right and a social responsibility, not a privilege.” The U.S. bishops’ conference has strived “so diligently” to work with Congress and the White House in seeking compromise legislation, he reported.

“As of Nov. 5, all those efforts have failed,” he wrote.

With the exception of a few leaders like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Congress has either ignored or rejected the bishops’ concerns or has brought forward proposals like the Capps Amendment. In the bishop’s view, these proposals do not solve the issues and even create new ones.

“The White House has done nothing to intervene. ‘Common ground’ thinking in Washington apparently has more reality as public relations than as public policy. And as a result, all of the main healthcare reform proposals in Congress, including the huge, 2,000-page merged House bill, are fatally flawed.”

He said the proposals need to be opposed and defeated unless they are “immediately and adequately” amended.

Bishop Conley outlined the priorities of the bishops, first saying that everyone should have access to basic health care, including immigrants. At minimum, this access should include immigrants in the United States legally.

He also urged that health reform respects the dignity of every person, “from conception to natural death.”

“This means that the elderly and persons with disabilities must be treated with special care and sensitivity,” he remarked.

“It also means that abortion and abortion funding should be excluded from any reform plan, no matter how adroitly the abortion funding is masked. Whatever one thinks about its legality, abortion has nothing to do with advancing human ‘health,’ and a large number of Americans regard it as a gravely wrong act of violence, not only against unborn children but also against women,” the bishop added.

Bishop Conley said “explicit, ironclad” conscience protections are needed for medical professionals and institutions so that they cannot be forced to violate their convictions.

Finally, he explained, any reform must be “economically realistic” and sustainable.

“That’s a moral issue, not simply a practical one,” he added.

Most American Catholics want health care reform to work, but “too many people in Washington don’t know how to listen, or don’t want to listen, or just don’t care,” Bishop Conley’s essay concluded.

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