WASHINGTON, January 19, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The U.S. bishops have urged President-elect Barack Obama not to rescind current policies that protect conscience rights of health care workers, prevent foreign aid to organizations promoting abortion, and ban funding of stem cell research that encourages destruction of human embryos.
They made the request in a January 16 letter from Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, shortly before President-elect Obama’s inauguration. The letter followed by less than a week a previous letter outlining the bishops’ broad policy agenda as the new Administration and Congress begin their work.
Cardinal George said some would expect the new president "to take executive action soon to reverse current policies" that uphold people’s rights to follow their consciences and that respect innocent human life. Giving in to these expectations, he said, could be "a terrible mistake—morally, politically, and in terms of advancing the solidarity and well-being of our nation’s people."
Cardinal George hailed the recently issued regulation to protect conscience rights in health care as "a long-overdue measure for implementing three statutes enacted by Congress over the last 35 years." He said this is a "common-sense regulation, which explicitly protects the right of health professionals who favor or oppose abortion to serve the basic health needs of their communities."
The Cardinal also cited the Mexico City Policy, established in 1984, that has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. He warned: "A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect."
He said that the current embryonic stem cell policy sought "to ensure that Americans are not forced to use their tax dollars to encourage expanded destruction of embryonic human beings for their stem cells."
He added that "recent startling advances in reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells - hailed by the journal Science as the scientific breakthrough of the year - are said by many scientists to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress." He noted also that "adult and cord blood stem cells are now known to have great versatility, and are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs."
"To divert scarce funds away from these promising avenues for research and treatment, toward the avenue that is most morally controversial as well as most medically speculative, would be a sad victory of politics over science," he added.
To read the complete Bishops’ letter, see: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jan/09011905.html