WASHINGTON - The Senate health reform bill should not move forward in its current form, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said December 19, as senators proceeded closer to a vote. Cardinal DiNardo chairs the bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities. Bishop Murphy chairs the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Wester chairs the bishops' Committee on Migration.
"Yesterday the bishops comented on good-faith efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the pending Senate health care reform bill on the issues of abortion and conscience rights," Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Murphy and Bishop Wester said.
"Today a Manager's Amendment was proposed to make final changes in that bill. The amendment includes some improvements from Senator Casey's proposal, including adoption tax credits and assistance for pregnant women, but differs from that proposal in other ways: It does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to "opt out" of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage. Instead it will require purchasers of such plans to pay a distinct fee or surcharge which is extracted solely to help pay for other people's abortions. Further the government agency that currently manages health coverage for federal employees will promote and help subsidize multi-state health plans that include elective abortions, contrary to longstanding law governing this agency.
Therefore, while we appreciate the good-faith efforts made by Senators Robert Casey and Ben Nelson (D-NE) to improve the bill, our judgment is the same as it was yesterday: This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed. The bishops' conference continues to study that 383-page amendment's implications from the perspective of all the bishops' moral concerns -- protection of life and conscience, affordable access to health care, and fairness to immigrants. We will continue to work vigorously for authentic health care reform that clearly reflects these fundamental principles because such reform is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority."