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March 20, 2010
For decades, the United States Catholic bishops have supported universal health care. The Catholic Church teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential for human life and dignity. Our community of faith provides health care to millions, purchases health care for tens of thousands and addresses the failings of our health care system in our parishes, emergency rooms and shelters. This is why we as bishops continue to insist that health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority.
We are convinced that the Senate legislation now presented to the House of Representatives on a “take it or leave it” basis sadly fails this test and ought to be opposed. Why do we take this position, when we have a long record of support for health care reform? Our fundamental objections can be summarized in two points:
Now, after a year of divisive political combat, members of the House are told that they can advance health care reform only by adopting the Senate legislation as is, including these fundamental flaws. The House leadership is ignoring the pleas of pro-life members for essential changes in the legislation. Apparently they will not even try to address the serious problems on abortion funding, conscience protection and fair treatment of immigrants.
We are bishops, not politicians, policy experts or legislative tacticians. We are also pastors, teachers, and citizens. At this point of decision, we cannot compromise on basic moral principles. We can only urge -- and hope and pray -- that the House of Representatives will still find the will and the means to adopt health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. The legislation the House adopted, while not perfect, came closer to meeting these criteria. The Senate legislation simply does not meet them.
With deep regret, but clear in our moral judgment, we are compelled to continue to urge House members to oppose the Senate bill unless these fundamental flaws are remedied. At this critical moment, we urge Representatives to take the steps necessary to ensure that health care reform respects the life and dignity of all, from conception to natural death.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City
Committee on Migration
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