As a Senate committee considered a range of amendments, bishops representing three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on senators to insist that any final health reform bill exclude mandated coverage of abortion, protect conscience rights, safeguard the health of immigrants and protect "the life, dignity and health of all."
The letter was signed by Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the Committee on Migration.
The bishops made their comments as the Senate Finance Committee continued its markup of the health reform plan proposed by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman. By a 13-10 vote Sept. 30, the committee rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, that would have required women who wanted coverage for abortions to purchase it and pay for it separately. (see video below)
In their letter, the bishops said none of the health reform proposals considered in committee, including the Baucus bill, has "met President (Barack) Obama's challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws."
"These deficiencies must be corrected," they added.
In his Sept. 9 address to a joint session of Congress on health care reform, Obama said, "Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place."