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Praying for Health Care Reform

By Nathan Guttman

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Democrats need you to pray for health care reform.

Well, maybe not pray. But what Senate Democrats are looking for is to hear more from religious groups in support of efforts to fix the health-care system. This was the message Senate Democrats had Wednesday at a press briefing with representatives of media outlets serving faith communities.

California Senator Barbara Boxer was perfectly clear: “My plea is that we hear more from the faith community,” she said. Boxer would like to see the issue of health care reform raised at synagogues every Saturday and at churches every Sunday.

“You got to talk to the people who are listening to you out there,” Boxer urged faith communities.

That is not to say that Democrats aren’t pleased by what they are hearing so far from religious groups. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan called actions taken by faith groups “extremely supportive and effective” although there is a need, she believes for faith communities “to help us get beyond the partisan rancor.”

Nine senators, headed by majority leader Harry Reid, showed up to the meeting, which is part of an ongoing effort by Senate Democrats to reach out to religious groups and make them part of the discussion on current affairs.

Many major Jewish religious groups are already involved in actions supporting health care reform, including lobbying in favor of the bills being discussed, setting up networks of rabbis who back the reform and entering interfaith coalitions dealing with the issue.

For the Jewish community, the health care debate hits close to home, since federations are major providers of healthcare services in the communities and are directly affected by any change in funding for these services. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland touched on this point when he warned that maintaining the status quo on health care would put faith communities in a difficult position, since they are already trying to “fill the void between what is provided by the system and what the needs are.” If health care isn’t fixed, Cardin stressed, the burden being placed on religious communities will become even heavier.

And also a word of reassurance directed specifically at Catholic leaders who still have reservations regarding the proposed legislation: It will not including funding for abortion procedures.

“We’re not changing policy on that,” stressed Stabenow, who is pro-choice. And even Senator Bob Casey, one of the few Democrats who are pro-life, agreed that there’d be no change in abortion policy.


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