December 15, 2009

Bishops Want Health Care Reform Aligned with Current Abortion Funding Laws; Urge Support for Menendez Amendment to Waive Waiting Period for Legal Immigrants

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops again urged senators to place Hyde Amendment language into proposed health care reform legislation, a step that would  align the legislation with policies now governing all other federal health programs and the just-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act.
They made their request in a December 14 letter from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities (
In a separate letter, also sent Dec. 14, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Domestic Policy Committee, urged support of the Menendez Amendment ( The Menendez Amendment, proposed by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would give states the option to lift the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain Medicaid coverage.

The letter on the Hyde Amendment sought to clarify misrepresentation of an amendment sponsored by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch ((R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) that the  Senate tabled on December 8. The bishops pointed out the irony that senators supported the
policy of the Nelson/Hatch/Casey Amendment when they voted overwhelmingly for the Consolidated Appropriations Act on December 13. The appropriations act contains Hyde language banning federal funding for health coverage that includes elective abortion, and maintains laws protecting conscience rights such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment.
A major problem with the current health care reform legislation in the Senate , Cardinal DiNardo said, is that “it explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history.”
“Health care reform is too urgently needed to be placed at risk by one lobbying group’s insistence on changing the law. Before the Senate considers final votes on its health care reform legislation, please incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law,” Cardinal DiNardo added.
In supporting the Menendez Amendment, Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Wester and Bishop Murphy noted that “legal immigrants, who work, pay taxes, and are on a path to citizenship, should have access to health care services, such as Medicaid, for which they help pay.
“Moreover, providing low-income legal immigrants access to Medicaid would help ensure that the general public health of immigrant communities and the nation is served,” they said.

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