By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a Web site that seeks to clarify its position on the health care reform debate and to help Catholics add their voices to the discussions.
The Web site at www.usccb.org/healthcare features videos addressing various aspects of the health reform debate, answers to several frequently asked questions, copies of bishops’ documents and letters to Congress, facts and statistics about Catholic health care in the United States, and links to send messages to members of Congress.
The bishops also plan to offer specific “action alerts” on the site when Congress returns to work on health reform legislation in September.
The site urges Catholics to tell Congress that “health care reform should:
• “Include health care coverage for all people from conception until natural death, and continue the federal ban on funding for abortions.
• “Include access for all with a special concern for the poor.
• “Pursue the common good and preserve pluralism, including freedom of conscience.
• “Restrain costs and apply costs equitably among payers.”
In one of the videos on the USCCB site, Kathy Saile, director of domestic social development in the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, notes that the bishops have not taken a position for or against any particular piece of health reform legislation.
“A lot is happening in Congress. It changes daily, but our principles and criteria remain consistent,” she said.
“The bishops are right at the center of the debate,” Saile added. “But the debate is going to continue in Congress for several more months. There will be lots of opportunities to call, to e-mail and to continue that dialogue with members of Congress.”
In other videos, Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, explains why the bishops are insisting that any health reform legislation be “abortion-neutral.”
“Abortion is the opposite of health care; it kills the patient,” he said. “We can’t support reform if it is going to turn doctors against some of their patients.”
At the same time, Doerflinger said, the bishops’ goal is not to “advance the pro-life cause” through health reform legislation. “We just want to preserve all major existing policies and provisions, so that (reform legislation) doesn’t forge new ground against the life of the unborn.”
The Catholic Health Association has a similar message on its Web site at www.chausa.org.
“CHA has not endorsed any of the health care reform bills, but our message to lawmakers is clear: Health reform should not result in an expansion of abortion and it must sustain conscience protections for health care providers who do not want to participate in abortions or other morally objectionable procedures,” it says.
The association also has detailed information about its “vision for U.S. health care” on a separate Web page at www.ourhealthcarevalues.org.
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