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Catholic healthcare organization forms new lobbying unit

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John Burger - published on 11/13/23

Washington-based advocacy group will emphasize doctrine in fight for conscience rights.

In a week when state level elections yielded disappointing results for advocates of legal protection for unborn children, a Catholic organization launched a lobbying unit to fight for the rights of those involved in healthcare.

The Catholic Health Care Leadership Alliance (CHCLA) on November 8 announced the new Institute for Public Policy and Advocacy. The institute will be advocating in the areas of healthcare policy and conscience protection.

The CHCLA maintains that healthcare professionals practicing medicine in conformity with the Catholic faith increasingly encounter major obstacles in American life. They say U.S. public policy in the healthcare sector undermines the dignity of the human person and religious freedom. They complain of “a sea of basic conscience rights violations within the healthcare industry and a presidential administration backing regulatory action and litigation requiring participation in abortion and gender-altering surgeries.”

Speakers at the launch event on November 8 in Washington, DC, pointed to the passage in Ohio Issue 1, which will allow abortion through most of pregnancy. They said abortion advocates not only want abortion legal in Ohio, but they want to force all healthcare practitioners to participate in abortions, even if their consciences get in the way.

Alive spiritually

Launched in 2022, the Catholic Health Care Leadership Alliance was formed by the Catholic Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Catholic Benefits Association, Catholic Bar Association, and Christ Medicus Foundation to unite Catholic physicians, nurses, administrators, students, health systems, hospitals, and provider groups in a common mission to advance the practice of medicine consistent with Catholic ethics.

“Like it or not, medical care has been politicized, and we need a strong, united Catholic voice in the public debates regarding health care delivery,” said CHCLA President Dr. Steven White, a specialist in pulmonary medicine and a consultant for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Otherwise, we risk further erosion of the moral principles undergirding the profession for centuries and safeguarding the health and welfare of the sick and most vulnerable among us.”

The new public policy institute will bring together experts from all disciplines involved in the delivery of healthcare to “advance policies centered on the dignity of the human person, authentic Christian anthropology and the patient-physician relationship, with a preferential option for the poor and most vulnerable,” White said at the launch event, held at the office of the Religious Freedom Institute, near Capitol Hill.

Louis Brown, an attorney and executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, will serve as director of the institute. Brown received a doctorate in law from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.; helped establish the Catholic health care sharing option CMF Curo, and served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., in the Office for Civil Rights.

“Catholic healthcare is the continuation of Jesus Christ’s ministry to heal and restore the sick and suffering in body, mind, and soul to be whole and fully alive,” Brown said Wednesday. “Being in a communion of love with God and our neighbors is the highest form of healing. Though I have many disagreements with the U.S. Surgeon General, the General’s report earlier this year on the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation as well as other medical research indicates that the best health outcomes and often the longest life spans occur where people are alive spiritually and are in healthy loving relationship with others.”

Brown said the institute will educate policy makers and the public on health care law and policy that protects the life and dignity of all persons – especially the unborn, the poor, and the vulnerable. It will also file friend-of-the-court briefs in select federal cases “where we believe the experience and perspective of the Alliance can help protect the life and dignity of the unborn, the poor, and vulnerable and also defend medical conscience and religious freedom rights in health care,” he said.

In a question-and-answer period, Brown said the institute aims to be a resource to which people can turn when they ask how the Church thinks about a certain healthcare-related issue.

Uniting in a common cause

Joshua M. McCaig, an attorney and founder of the Catholic Bar Association, also spoke at the event, adding that the institute will analyze state and federal legislation and government regulations that impact Catholic health care, as well as provide educational material to assist in the evaluation of policy.

McCaig also sees the new institute as uniting disparate Catholic voices in a common goal.“For too long, the Catholic voice in the public policy arena has been divided by partisan politics, where the principles of Catholic Social Teaching are split up and claimed by different political parties, leading to division among Catholics, and this includes the fundamental rights involved within Catholic health care,” he said. “This division has created a situation where politics guides religious beliefs, as opposed to religious beliefs informing politics, leading to further disunity within the Church and a weakened voice in the public square.”

McCaig concluded: “The CHCLA Institute for Public Policy and Advocacy’s purpose is to bring unity to the Catholic voice in the area of healthcare and speak the truth of Christ’s teachings on the healing ministry – a truth that upholds the dignity of the human person, a truth that seeks to provide access to quality health care to everyone, a truth that defends the sanctity of life, a truth that is a witness to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ through the love and compassion of so many healthcare professionals working tirelessly to bring hope to patients, and families, who are suffering and in need.”

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