By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

Cardinal Justin Rigali is calling on the priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s 267 parishes to ask their parishioners to urge Congress to make sure that abortion funding is not included in health care reform legislation.

“Your swift action and prayers in the cause of this urgent nationwide effort are both necessary and appreciated,” the Cardinal said in a letter to priests dated Jan. 8.

As Congress negotiates a final health care bill, Catholics are asked to contact their senators and representatives, urging them to keep longstanding restrictions against federal funding of abortion and full conscience protection in the legislation. If the criteria are not met, Catholics are asked to urge Congress to oppose the final bill.

On Nov. 7, the U.S. House passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.

On Dec. 24, the U.S. Senate rejected the policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion.

The two bills must now be combined into one that both the House and Senate will vote on in final form.

The USCCB’s latest national campaign is directed toward the weekend of Jan. 16-17.

“Provisions against abortion funding and in favor of conscience protection, affordability, and immigrants’ access to health care must be part of a fair and just health care reform bill, or the final bill must be opposed,” states a release included in a mailing of bulletin inserts and pulpit announcements the USCCB has sent to nearly 19,000 parishes across the country.

“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” the release also states. “Health care reform should not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country.”

During October and November, diocesan and parish leaders were asked by the U.S. bishops to distribute nationwide bulletin inserts on health care reform.

In his letter to the priests of the Archdiocese, Cardinal Rigali thanked the clergy for their cooperation in urging the lay Catholic faithful to make their voices heard on health care reform.

Catholics may contact their legislators online and or by sending a pre-written e-mai message to Congress by accessing the USCCB web site at

They may also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or their congressional members’ local offices. Contact information may be found at and

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or