In this podcast we hear about the American Church’s perspective on President Barack Obama’s drive for healthcare reform.

This podcast made available from Vatican Radio

Kathy Saile is Director of Health Policy at the United States Catholic Bishops Conferences department for justice and human development.

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U.S. Bishops’ conference

Full text: www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-07-17-murphy-letter-congress.pdf

The U.S. bishops’ conference is urging lawmakers to reform the health care system in order to make it accessible and affordable for all, and respectful of human life.

The conference affirmed this in a July 17 letter to U.S. congressmen, signed by the chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York.

The letter, released to the public today, was written to present the conference’s policy priorities to all Senators and House Representatives.

The bishops expressed the hope that Congress “will bring genuine life-affirming reform to the nation’s health care system.”

“As Congress begins debate on health care reform,” the prelates underlined their support for these actions and offered criteria for “fair and just” changes.

They asserted, “We have in the past and we always must insist that health care reform excludes abortion coverage or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of life.”

The letter called for a “truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity.”

It also appealed for “access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants.”

The health policy should pursue the common good and preserve pluralism, the conference affirmed, “including freedom of conscience and variety of options.”

As well, it added, costs of health care should be restrained, and applied “equitably across the spectrum of payers.”

Morality and politics

Expanding on these criteria, the letter continued: “No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.

“Any such action would be morally wrong.”

A policy that funds abortions, the bishops asserted, would not pass a vote, and thus “would be politically unwise.”

The conference added that another requirement of the duty “to protect the life and dignity of every person” is recalling the principle that “decent health care is not a privilege, but a right.”

The prelates stated to the lawmakers, “All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born.”

The letter emphasized, “The bishops’ conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable.”

The conference explained that “health care is not just another issue for the Church or for a healthy society.”

It affirmed that this is “a fundamental issue of human life and dignity” and a “critical component of the Catholic Church’s ministry.”

The bishops concluded, “We bring both strong convictions and everyday experience to the issue of health care.”

They expressed the desire of working with the congressmen “on these priorities as you make important choices on how to strengthen and improve health care, a most important national priority.”

WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 21, 2009 (Zenit.org)