Congress urged to keep health care gains, protect life, conscience rights

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Bachman, Reuters


WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman
of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee said Jan. 18 that a repeal of
the federal health care law should not take place without immediate passage of
a plan that preserves people’s access to adequate health care and also protects
human life, conscience rights and the poor.

“Important gains brought about
by the Affordable Care Act must be preserved” as millions of people now rely
on the law for their health care, said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice,
Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on
Domestic Justice and Human Development.

At the same time, he said, any
replacement measure also must safeguard human life from conception to natural death, protect conscience rights and provide adequate health care for immigrants, the
poor and others on society’s margins.

Bishop Dewane made the comments
in a letter sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S.

The U.S. bishops “supported the
general goal of the law to expand medical coverage for many poor and vulnerable
people,” but they “ultimately opposed the Affordable Care Act because it
expanded the role of the federal government in finding and facilitating
abortion and plans that cover abortion,” Bishop Dewane wrote.

“It also failed to provide
essential conscience protections and access to health care for immigrants,” he

“We recognize that the law has
brought about important gains in such coverage and those gains should be
protected,” he continued. In the days ahead, the U.S. bishops “will examine health care
proposals in greater depth and from various perspectives in the days ahead,” he said.

President Barack Obama signed the
Affordable Care Act into law March 23, 2010.

“We remain committed to the
ideals of universal and affordable health care and to the pursuit of those
ideals in a manner that includes protections for human life, conscience and
immigrants,” Bishop Dewane told the lawmakers. “We urge you to approach the
important debates in the days ahead seeking also to honor these principles for
the good of all.”

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