Now is the time to speak up

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — There is no better time than right now for Catholics to get involved in the health care reform debate, said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

“Currently, the U.S. Congress is in recess, and the members are spending time in their home districts, taking time to find out how their constituents feel about health care,” he said.

“Right now,” he continued, “is an optimal time for Catholics in Kansas to get in touch with their representatives and senators to let them know what they think about health care.”

Each member of Congress has local offices to address constituent concerns. Getting in touch is as easy as making a phone call.

“Some of these members may be scheduling town hall meetings or other public events,” said Schuttloffel. “Call their offices or go to their web sites to see if there are any opportunities to meet them in person. Otherwise, just talk to the staff person and tell them in no uncertain language where you stand.”

The conference’s main concern this August is that Catholics convey to members of congress that any health care reform legislation must not include public financing of abortion.

“There’s tremendous concern about that subject because of the position of the current congressional leadership and our president on that issue,” he said. “They all, for years, have been firmly on the side of expanded access to abortion and public funding of abortion. We want to ensure that does not happen in the context of whatever reform is finally produced by Congress.”

The church is drawing a bright, red line in the sand, said Schuttloffel. Taxpayer funding of abortion is completely unacceptable and will be vehemently opposed if it appears in the final version of this legislation.

“Public funding of abortion is way outside of the mainstream,” said Schuttloffel. “Polling shows that even people who are pro-choice largely don’t believe that people should be forced to pay for abortion with tax- payer dollars. It’s completely outside of the mainstream and radical, particularly in Kansas.”

There is concern about some issues — like end-of-life care and the whole notion of government-provided insurance — even where there is not legislative language that can be pointed to as a problem. The concern arises from the context of the current makeup of the U.S Congress and presidential administration.

“There is concern that any public option or plan is worrisome because this is a federal government that is hostile to our values,” said Schuttloffel.

Despite the fact that there are legitimate concerns about these issues, people need to be careful not to get upset by some spurious things floating through e-mails or placed on web sites, he said.

“There are a lot of people with a lot of different motivations in what they are saying about this legislation,” said Schuttloffel. “People need to research these things, talk to us, talk to their congressman, read these bills, and try to reach well-founded conclusions about these things rather than [buy into] hearsay.”

Our efforts should be directed toward keeping the bills free of pro-abortion language, promoting explicit language prohibiting public funding of abortion, and keeping what protections we have on the state and federal levels.

“Let’s face facts,” said Schuttloffel. “We have a pro-abortion president, a pro-abortion Senate leadership, and a pro-abortion House leadership. It’s not even close. These are people for whom abortion has been the centerpiece of their political careers.”

“There likely aren’t going to be any pro-life amendments,” he continued. “It’s hard to imagine that [the final bill] will be a vehicle for any sort pro-life legislation. It’s just not in the cards.

“What we’re pushing for is preservation of current protections that prevent taxpayer funding of abortion. . . . we’ve got to dig our heels in and make sure we don’t lose ground through this bill.”

Members of Congress should be reminded that, if they really want health care reform, they should not go down the road of pursing a pro-choice agenda.

“That would be too much to swallow,” said Schuttloffel. “Our pro-life people in Kansas need to send this message to Congress, and do it now. Now is the right time.”

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