By A. B. Hill

As the health care reform debate continues many people are asking provocative questions. They should. Health care reform deserves an in-depth, open-minded and civil discussion of all points of view.

Two questions Catholics might consider: Why should we worry about health care? Why should we remain vigilant in preserving policies against abortion funding and mandates, and maintaining conscience protections?

Providing healing and comfort to the sick is deeply rooted in our Christian tradition. Some of the earliest hospitals were Catholic monasteries and generations of religious orders were the first health care professionals. Here in the United States, Catholic providers are prominent in our health care history. In Pennsylvania, 20 hospitals and dozens of nursing homes are affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Our interest in health care, especially for the poor, stems from the healing ministry of Jesus and our ever-present concern for the common good. The Church views access to basic health care as a fundamental right along with food, housing, work, education and others. These rights flow from the sanctity of human life and dignity that belongs to everyone.

This leads us to our second question. Why fight to keep policies that prohibit public funding for abortion and abortion mandates and insist on conscience protections?

Health care is a ministry based upon Christian charity and justice. By its very nature, it must have a special concern for the poor and most vulnerable members of society. This includes everyone from conception to natural death – no exceptions. Unborn babies in their earliest stages of life; the frail, elderly, disabled and very sick at the latest stages of theirs; and everyone in between deserve the same dignity, respect and protection. Health care should sustain life, permit healing and provide comfort. Ending a human life for any reason is counter to the very mission of health care.

The goal of health care reform should be to advance health coverage, to ensure that everyone, regardless of their financial status, has access to basic medicine and services to keep them healthy and well. Effective health care reform will not advance an agenda on abortion, even indirectly.

Congress must be absolutely precise in assuring that existing policies against abortion funding that protect conscience rights and prevent a mandate for abortion coverage are not undermined. In these critical areas, nothing should be left to chance, interpretation or administrative whim.

Now is an ideal opportunity to contact our U.S. Senators and your Congressman or woman. Visit, call, fax, write or e-mail them to voice your opinion on health care reform. Contact information is available on the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network page at

Tell them in your own words 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.

Lend your voice for the poor, the vulnerable, and the born and unborn so they can be heard in this important national conversation about health care reform.

Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.