Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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Comprehensive Health Care Reform

For many years, LCWR has been an advocate for affordable health care for all in this country. Similar assembly resolutions were approved and acted upon in 1990, 1998, and 2002. In its educational and advocacy efforts, LCWR follows the lead of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Catholic Health Association (CHA). In August 2009, the presidents and board of LCWR developed a brief statement calling for health care reform that provides affordable, accessible health care for all, with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. The statement was shared with all LCWR members, the USCCB and CHA, President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, and key members of Congress.

On December 26, 2009, The New York Times published an article that led some readers to conclude that there is a division between a position taken by the US Catholic bishops and a position taken by both the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) regarding the federal funding of abortion in the health care reform bill. The fact is that CHA, LCWR and the US bishops are in complete agreement that no federal funding of abortion be provided in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009.

During the months of debate about health care reform legislation, LCWR has supported the work of both the Catholic bishops and the Catholic Health Association to assure that health reform protects life at all stages while expanding coverage to the greatest possible number of people in the United States .

In response to the efforts of Senator Robert Casey to propose an amendment to achieve this goal and assure that no federal funding be provided for abortions, on December 17, 2009 CHA issued the following statement: “While we have yet to see the manager's amendment of Senator Robert Casey's final abortion amendment language, we are encouraged by recent deliberations and the outline Senator Casey is developing. It is our understanding that the language now being written would prohibit federal funding of abortion, ensure provider conscience protection and fund programs to provide supportive care to some of the most vulnerable pregnant women in our society.” In effect, the CHA statement was not an endorsement of the amendment or the bill, but rather support of the effort to find a way to keep federal funding for abortions out of the bill before the bill was voted on.

As LCWR president, Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA was invited by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to join other Catholic organizations in expressing public support of the CHA statement. In a statement released by Catholics in Alliance, she offered support for Senator Casey's efforts “to propose language that will achieve needed financial assistance for pregnant women without federal funding for abortion.” She also stated that LCWR “strongly supports health care legislation that will expand coverage to most people in the US and will protect human life at all stages.”