Health Care is a Basic Human Right

Health Care is a Human Right
By Tom Allio, Senior Director, Diocesan Social Action Office

In his September 3rd opinion piece, entitled “Health Care Costs Money: Real Rights Don’t,” Kevin O’Brien unfairly criticizes the position of the U.S. Bishops on health care reform. If you believe O’Brien, the Bishops are confused and that health care as a basic right is a “principle based on a false premise.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is long standing Catholic teaching that health care is a basic human right. This is not merely the opinion of a few Bishops; rather this perspective is drawn from Biblical and theological principles, as well as, the encyclicals of Popes. Specifically, Pope John XX111 in his well respected 1963 encyclical, entitled “Pacem In Terris,” (Peace on Earth), wrote: “Man (and woman) has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived the means of livelihood.” From a Catholic perspective, these rights flow from the sanctity and dignity of human life. Clearly, the right to life is a fundamental principle upon which all other rights are derived.

Drawing from John XX111, the U.S. Bishops issued a pastoral statement in 1981, entitled “Health and Health Care.” According to the Bishops, “Because all human beings are created according to God’s image, they possess a basic human dignity which calls for the utmost reverence. On the individual level this means a special responsibility to care for one’s own health and that of others. On the societal level this calls for the responsibility by society to provide adequate health care which is a basic human right.” For almost three decades, the U.S. Bishops have consistently advocated for national health care policy that guarantees adequate coverage for all while maintaining a pluralistic approach.

For the Church, health care is more than a commodity; rather “it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity. We believe our people’s health care should not depend on where they work, how much their parents earn, or where they live.” (1993 statement of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform.)

O’Brien also argues that the “card” the Bishops should play in this debate is that the lack of basic health care for some people is an “injustice.” This perspective has never been lost in the Church’s advocacy. As one of the largest health care providers in the United States with some 624 hospitals and other medical facilities, the Catholic Church offers compassionate and professional treatment to millions of uninsured each year. On a daily basis, Catholic professionals provide the healing ministry of Jesus to those who have no other alternatives.

In brief, the position of the U.S. Bishops is as follows:

 a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity. Continue the federal ban on funding abortions.
 access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants.
 pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and a variety of options.
 restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of players.
For the statements and resources of the U.S. Bishops on health care, visit http://www.usccb.org/healthcare

September 3, 2009

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Health Care Reform and the U.S. Bishops

The Facts About Health Care Reform and the Position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
by Tom Allio, senior director, Cleveland Diocesan Social Action Office

As you know, there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated nationally and locally about health care reform. Quite frankly, some organizations are distorting the truth to advance what appears to be their own agenda. Misleading information has appeared on television (through paid ads), on the radio talk shows, in newspaper columns, and spread throughout the internet by a variety of means. As a result, many parishioners are confused about what to believe regarding the current debate. We highly recommend that they be referred to the USCCB’s web page as an authentic source of teaching regarding the position of our Church on health care reform.

Our U.S. Bishops have been consistent and very clear about their position on health care reform. They have affirmed Catholic Social Teaching on Health Care. (See “A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/comphealth.shtml ). On July 17, 2009, they issued an action alert, entitled “Reform Health Care and Protect Human Life and Dignity.” In this alert, the USCCB called upon Catholics to contact their legislators to tell them that health care reform should:
 Include health care coverage for all people from conception until natural death
 Continue the federal ban on funding for abortions and reject any mandate for abortion coverage or access to abortion
 Include access for all with a special concern for the poor and vulnerable and support inclusion for legal immigrants
 Preserve pluralism, including freedom of conscience for providers, health care workers and patients
 Restrain costs and apply costs equitably among payers

This action alert was followed by a July 27th alert that updates the progress of health care and underscores the Church’s position.

Also on July 17, 2009, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy, sent a letter to Congress. Bishop Murphy described health care as “a basic right belonging to all human beings, from conception to natural death” and said that “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is working to ensure that needed health reform is not undermined by abandoning longstanding and widely supported policies against abortion funding and mandates and in favor of conscience protection.” Parishioners can find Bishop Murphy’s letter, as well as, a comprehensive listing of all the teaching and documents on health care reform, at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/health1.shtml.

The Diocesan Social Action Office (DSAO) would also like to recommend to you the July 30, 2009 statement of Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro Life Activities. The Cardinal wrote to all members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging them to amend H.R. 3200 to retain longstanding government policies on abortion and conscience rights.

Finally, the U.S. Bishops have launched an outstanding web site on health care. The web site can be accessed at http://www.usccb.org/healthcare. Visitors to the site will find the position of the Church on health care reform, facts and statistics, frequently asked questions and information on how to get involved in reform efforts. You can also find the various letters to Congress and other statements of the Bishops.

The DSAO has recently issued two legislative hotlines dated July 20 & 28 that mirror the position of the Bishops’ Conference. They can be found at our web site at http://www.catholic-action.org. (scroll down to the legislative hotline listings). We unequivocally support the moral framework advocated by the USCCB. We hope this short overview is of help to you. Please spread the word about these resources.

I also highly recommend to you the recent letter to the faithful of Cleveland by Bishop Richard G. Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland. His statement is as follows:

18 August 2009

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the past several weeks the various news media sources, print and electronic, have been covering the national debates about proposed health care legislation. It is hard to believe that anyone can claim to be unaware of such conversations and disagreements.

Cleveland, in fact our own diocese specifically our Diocesan Social Action Office, has been noted in some of the literature. Some organizations have gone so far as to state that our Social Action Office is in favor of proposed legislation as it stands in the legislative process. I am told the legislation does not explicitly mention issues of significance for Catholics and other people having similar values.

Imagine such a charge! When one takes a look at statements put forth by the Diocesan Social Action Office since mid-July, they support reform in the area of health care noting that for reform to be truly beneficial it must be for all and must not compromise the lives of the unborn.

It seems to me that some participants in this issue of major importance are more interested in attacking certain people and organizations than clearly stating their own positions and the reasons behind their positions, thereby hopefully entering into a meaningful dialogue in this public forum.

As leader to the faithful of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, I rely on the teachings of the Catholic Church underscoring all human life as a gift from God to be protected and preserved from conception to natural death; all human beings have a right to health care; any health care policy must respect the sanctity and dignity of all human life.

Recently, two of my brother bishops, Bishop William Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre, and Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, have written on this issue in their positions as Chairman, Committee Domestic Justice and Human Development (Bishop Murphy) and Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities (Cardinal Rigali). Both of these churchmen have presented clearly Catholic teaching on this matter.

Bishop Murphy wrote that the Bishops “want to support health care reform” and do so
ever committed “that health care reform excludes abortion coverage or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of life.”

Cardinal Rigali wrote “that health care legislation (must) respect human life and rights of conscience.” He went on to state “we urge you to make this legislation ‘abortion neutral’ by preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.”

-2-

These teachings are the teachings of our Catholic Church and they are my teachings as Bishop of Cleveland and the teachings I expect all in leadership in our diocese to embrace and put forth during this time of national dialogue on health care reform.

Health care is a basic right that all people should have access to. However, this right does not override even more basic rights such as life and dignity of the human person. For health care reform to move in a direction that compromises the lives of some for the good of others would be totally unacceptable. A truly great society, a great nation takes care of all of its people, particularly the vulnerable. To this point I suggest that our interventions and conversations regarding health care reform be conducted in a civil manner and characterized by directness and faithfulness to our belief so that we may be heard.

The stakes in this matter are great; we need to be involved for the well-being of all, especially for those most in need.

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Commentary on Freedom of Choice Act

Commentary on Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) by

Thomas J. Allio Jr.

 

 

 

For more than 35 years, no issue has polarized U.S. politics and its citizenry more than the question of abortion.  As we embark upon a new year and the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, this issue is certain to receive heightened attention.  Much of that is due to Obama’s reported statement that he would look forward to signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This has drawn the attention of the U.S. Catholic Bishops who have launched a massive campaign this month (January 24-25) throughout most of the 18,992 parishes across the nation.  The essence of the campaign is to inspire action from some 70 million Catholics that would result in pushing back any attempt by Congress to enact FOCA.  The centerpiece of this campaign is the distribution of millions of post cards that would then be forwarded to the U.S. House Representatives and U.S. Senate.  Such an “all out call to action” has a sense of urgency and priority that is unprecedented in the recent history of the Bishops’ Conference.  

 

In a November 12, 2008 statement by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Cardinal voiced a desire to work with the new administration “for the common good of all.”  He specifically sighted the work of economic justice, immigration reform, education, health care, religious freedom and peace at home and abroad.  All of which merit greater leadership from our elected officials, from the Church and from all Americans.  However, he added: “Aggressive pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.”

 

FOCA is at the center of these concerns.  It is not a new legislative concept.  In fact, it has been around, in one form or another, since 1989.  In brief, FOCA would create a “fundamental right” to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy.  If passed, no governmental entity at any level could interfere with this right or to discriminate against its exercise in the provision of services, benefits or information.  The fear is that FOCA would eliminate a full range of laws, including: informed consent laws, parental notification laws, abortion clinic regulations, conscience protection laws, partial birth abortion laws, as well as, other important safeguards for the unborn and the mother.  In a letter sent last September to all members of Congress by Cardinal Justin Rigali, chair of the Bishops’ Pro Life Committee, the Cardinal said: “Despite its deceptive title, FOCA would deprive the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry,” and would “counteract any and all sincere efforts by government to reduce abortions in our country.”

 

The campaign to defeat FOCA coincides with a recent nationwide survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Bishops that has found that 82% of U.S. adults think that abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11%) or would limit its legality.  According to the survey that was released on December 30, 2008, thirty eight (38) percent would limit abortion to the narrow circumstances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother; and an additional 33 percent would limit abortion to either the first three or six months .  Only 9 percent agreed that abortion should be legal for any reason and at any time during the pregnancy.

 

People of faith who believe in the sacredness of all human life have a responsibility to take action to defeat radical laws such as FOCA.  The defeat of unjust laws and the promotion of public policies that protect human life and promote human dignity are both necessary responses.  I truly believe that opposing FOCA merits the strong call to action being urged by the U.S. Bishops.  For more information on the campaign to defeat FOCA, visit www.nchla.org

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Commentary of Freedom of Choice Act

Commentary on Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) by

Thomas J. Allio Jr.

For more than 35 years, no issue has polarized U.S. politics and its citizenry more than the question of abortion. As we embark upon a new year and the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, this issue is certain to receive heightened attention. Much of that is due to Obama’s reported statement that he would look forward to signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This has drawn the attention of the U.S. Catholic Bishops who have launched a massive campaign this month (January 24-25) throughout most of the 18,992 parishes across the nation. The essence of the campaign is to inspire action from some 70 million Catholics that would result in pushing back any attempt by Congress to enact FOCA. The centerpiece of this campaign is the distribution of millions of post cards that would then be forwarded to the U.S. House Representatives and U.S. Senate. Such an “all out call to action” has a sense of urgency and priority that is unprecedented in the recent history of the Bishops’ Conference.

In a November 12, 2008 statement by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Cardinal voiced a desire to work with the new administration “for the common good of all.” He specifically sighted the work of economic justice, immigration reform, education, health care, religious freedom and peace at home and abroad. All of which merit greater leadership from our elected officials, from the Church and from all Americans. However, he added: “Aggressive pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.”

FOCA is at the center of these concerns. It is not a new legislative concept. In fact, it has been around, in one form or another, since 1989. In brief, FOCA would create a “fundamental right” to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. If passed, no governmental entity at any level could interfere with this right or to discriminate against its exercise in the provision of services, benefits or information. The fear is that FOCA would eliminate a full range of laws, including: informed consent laws, parental notification laws, abortion clinic regulations, conscience protection laws, partial birth abortion laws, as well as, other important safeguards for the unborn and the mother. In a letter sent last September to all members of Congress by Cardinal Justin Rigali, chair of the Bishops’ Pro Life Committee, the Cardinal said: “Despite its deceptive title, FOCA would deprive the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry,” and would “counteract any and all sincere efforts by government to reduce abortions in our country.”

The campaign to defeat FOCA coincides with a recent nationwide survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Bishops that has found that 82% of U.S. adults think that abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11%) or would limit its legality. According to the survey that was released on December 30, 2008, thirty eight (38) percent would limit abortion to the narrow circumstances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother; and an additional 33 percent would limit abortion to either the first three or six months . Only 9 percent agreed that abortion should be legal for any reason and at any time during the pregnancy.

People of faith who believe in the sacredness of all human life have a responsibility to take action to defeat radical laws such as FOCA. The defeat of unjust laws and the promotion of public policies that protect human life and promote human dignity are both necessary responses. I truly believe that opposing FOCA merits the strong call to action being urged by the U.S. Bishops. For more information on the campaign to defeat FOCA, visit http://www.nchla.org.

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