The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but cautions that we must preserve gains in healthcare overage, while at the same time protecting human life, conscience rights, and the poor.

In a letter which was delivered January 18 to members of the Senate and House of Representatives, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote:

While we supported the general goal of the law to expand medical coverage for many poor and vulnerable people, the USCCB ultimately opposed the Affordable Care Act because it expanded the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion, and it failed to provide essential conscience protections and access to health care for immigrants. We recognize that the law has brought about important gains in coverage, and those gains should be protected.

The Catholic bishops of the United States will examine health care proposals in greater depth and from various perspectives in the days ahead. But we note for now that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their wellbeing. Particularly for those who would otherwise be required to use limited resources to meet basic needs such as food and shelter rather than seek medical care, the introduction of great uncertainty at this time would prove particularly devastating.

Insisting that healthcare is a “right” to which all are entitled, Bishop Dewane quoted from St. John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris:

“We must speak of man’s rights. Man 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.” (no. 11).

The letter also quotes the 2009 letter by Bishop William Murphy, previous Chair of the committee, reiterating the Catholic Church’s pro-life position. That earlier letter said:

“All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born. The Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable.”

You can read the Bishops’ letter in its entirety here.

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