A coalition of Catholic nuns took a very brave stand this week by defying church hierarchy in support of the Senate's health care reform bill. In a letter to Congress, the leaders of more than fifty Catholic women's orders and organizations, including the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents over 53,000 American Catholic nuns, urged lawmakers to pass the measure.
The bill is opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, conservatives, and the Congressional Republican minority, mainly over whether government-funded/subsidized insurance policies should cover abortions.
In supporting the bill, the nuns have taken the controversial abortion issue, the subject of intense and often violent debate since 1973's Supreme Court passage of Roe v Wade, and are using the Catholic Church's "pro-life" stance as the very same justification for passage of health care reform.
"We agree that there shouldn't be any federal funding of abortion," said Sister Simone Campbell, of Sisters of Social Service, and also executive director of Network, the national Catholic group behind the effort. "From our reading of the bill, there isn't any federal funding of abortion."
But here's the truly incredible, groundbreaking part of Campbell's comments: "For us, first of all, tens of thousands of people are dying each year because they don't have access to health care, so that is a life issue."
Finally, a logical, practical interpretation from some in the religious community of what it truly means to be "pro-life." Kudos to Sister Campbell and the 53,000+ other nuns for focusing on the millions of uninsured Americans, and those who die each year as result of poor or no health care, and for considering what their lives are worth.