U.S. bishops’ officials welcome president’s apparent pro-life accommodation


Officials with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have welcomed President Barack Obama’s September 9 address on health care reform, singling out for praise his statements regarding help for the uninsured and the prevention of federal funds for abortion.

During his Wednesday address on health care reform, the president said he wanted to clear up a “misunderstanding.”

“Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place,” he stated.

Two officials with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded to the speech in a Thursday press release.

"We especially welcome the President's commitment to exclude federal funding of abortion, and to maintain existing federal laws protecting conscience rights in health care,” said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB.

He said that incorporating “essential and longstanding” federal laws on such issues will strengthen support for health care reform. Doerflinger also pledged that the USCCB will work with Congress and the administration to ensure the protections are “clearly reflected” in new legislation so that it does not require anyone to pay for abortion or to take part in one.

Speaking to CNA via e-mail on Thursday, Doerflinger said that current health care reform bills such as H.R. 3200 will “fund and mandate” abortion coverage. In his view, the president is preparing to introduce a new bill which will not fund abortions.

"We have to wait and see what is actually in the bill before judging whether we agree. We are willing to work with him and Congress to help make sure this commitment is reflected in the actual bill," Doerflinger added.

Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB, expressed agreement with the president’s comment “no one should go broke because they get sick.”

“That's why the U.S. Bishops have worked for decades for decent health care for all,” she added, according to the USCCB press release. “The Catholic Church provides health care for millions, purchases health care, picks up the pieces of a failing health system, and has a long tradition of teaching on ethics in health care.”

She said health care reform that respects “the life and dignity of all” is a “moral imperative” and an “urgent” national priority.

“We agree with the President that there are details that need to be ironed out," Saile continued. "And with his address last night, we see the opportunity to work towards a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity, access for all with a special concern for the poor, and inclusion of legal immigrants.”

She added that the USCCB believes it is possible to preserve freedom of conscience while restraining health care costs and applying them equitably.

In his Thursday CNA interview, Doerflinger reiterated that there is cause for pro-lifers’ concern about health care reform proposals and called for the forthcoming legislation to be scrutinized “very carefully.

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