Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. episcopal conference, issued a statement on behalf of the conference Monday that thanked the U.S. House of Representatives for honoring President Barack Obama's "commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates."
The House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill Saturday, which aims to extend coverage to most Americans. Pro-life lawmakers added an amendment to the plan from Representative Bart Stupak that blocks federal tax dollars from being used to fund abortions.
The Senate has yet to debate the bill, but hopes to as early as next week.
In an urgent letter sent Friday, the bishops had urged the lawmakers to keep abortion funding out of health care reform, and to "ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all."
"In an essential step," Cardinal George stated today, "the House voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm the longstanding and widely supported precedent that no federal funds will be used to pay for elective abortions."
"We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation," he continued. "We also thank the members of the House who took this courageous and principled step to oppose measures that would force Americans to pay for the destruction of unborn children, and the Democratic leadership for allowing the Representatives to vote on this amendment that protects the common good."
"The conference will remain vigilant and involved," the cardinal assured, "throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation."
Cardinal George told the legislators that the Church remains "deeply concerned about other aspects of health care reform as the debate now moves to the Senate, especially as it affects the poor and vulnerable, and those at the beginning and end of life."
"We will continue to insist that health care reform legislation must protect conscience rights. We support measures to make health care more affordable for low-income people and the uninsured," he added. "We remain deeply concerned that immigrants be treated fairly and not lose the health care coverage that they now have."