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Bishops promote pro-life health care message

Catholic bishops - the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Nebraska's three bishops - are taking their pro-life message on health care reform to the people.

The U.S. bishops announced plans Oct. 30 to target some 19,000 parishes around the country with bulletin inserts explaining their stand and asking people to contact their representatives in Congress. The information included a Web site - - that can be used to contact elected officials.

Focus of the bishops' effort is a concern that any health care legislation being considered in Congress doesn't eliminate long-standing provisions against abortion funding or mandates. The bishops also want conscience provisions included, allowing health care workers to opt out of providing services that are against their beliefs and values.

"The bishops want health care reform, but they recoil at any expansion of abortion," said Helen Osman, USCCB secretary for communications, who helped organize the campaign. "Most Americans don't want to pay for other people's abortions ..."

Any impasse on reform of health care can be broken if Congress includes language that assures current provisions continue to guide spending policy, she said.

Nebraska's bishops - Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln and Bishop William Dendinger of Grand Island - were a week ahead of the national organization in their efforts.

Working through the Nebraska Catholic Conference, the bishops distributed information for bulletin inserts, a pulpit announcement and a prayer intention, all addressing the abortion and conscience issues and asking the people to contact U.S. Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns.

Jim Cunningham, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, said the local effort focused on U.S. senators because that's where "we believe the most compelling action" will take place.

Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, said he contacted parish pro-life coordinators across the state and received favorable reports about the materials and how they are being used.

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