As of the date of this publication, the health care reform bill may already have been passed or rejected by a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The latest and most serious point of contention at the heart of this bill is the Senate version’s inclusion of federal funding for abortion and lack of conscience protections for pro-life health care providers.

If the bill cannot be amended at this time because of parliamentary procedure, members of Congress should reject it. At the same time they should pledge to vote for an amended bill with stronger pro-life provisions within 30 days. And Congressional leadership should call for a new vote by approximately mid-April.

Deep spanisions exist on this issue, but also much common ground. The U.S. Bishops’ call for affordable and quality health care for all is a goal many people share. But the lack of protections for life and conscience make this reform package a deal breaker. It is unacceptable now, but can be fixed to achieve a consensus palatable enough for passage.

It is going to take vision, courage and hard work. It is not too late to ask our congressional representatives and senators to share the Church’s vision for health care reform, to support courageously the moral case for reform with essential protections now absent and to work hard to complete it this spring.

Call, write or email the Congressperson who represents you in Washington and urge him or her to support true and just health care reform.

While the phone or keyboard is warmed up, now is also the time to contact your state senator in Harrisburg to support the Marriage Protection Amendment. This proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution would define marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. It would prevent a judicial decision from allowing same-sex marriage here, which has occurred in states that lacked such an amendment.

The bill considered by the Senate this week should receive the support of Catholics who wish to respect homosexual persons while not redefining marriage, an institution that must be preserved for the good of family life.