Category Archives: Sister Spirit

Family Reunification is the Heart of Immigration

Family Reunification is the Heart of Immigration

Sister Bernadine Karge, OP
February 22, 2018

May I share the immigration story of the Gomez* Family whom I met more than 13 years ago?

Mr. Gomez* had come to the United States in the early 1980’s to work to support his wife, and children in Mexico. When the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) went into effect in 1987, Mr. Gomez applied for temporary resident status during the one year application time. He successfully proved that he had entered the U.S. without documents, lived here without documents since 1/1/82, had provided for himself, paid taxes and was a person of good moral character. After the required time as a temporary resident, he became a permanent resident in 1992. One aspect of the 1986 law was that there were no derivative beneficiaries. This means a spouse could not bring in his or her spouse and minor unmarried children into the country as permanent residents when she or he recieved a “green card.”

However, as a permanent resident Mr. Gomez could and did file a petition to bring his wife and unmarried children in 1992. So Mr. Gomez was living legally in the U.S. and his wife and three kids were living in Mexico. What would you do? Leave your wife and kids in another country or bring them here? The latter, no doubt, which is what the Gomez family did-reunite the family. The children attended school here in the U.S. and the sons began working with their dad in the factory when they were old enough.

When I first met the family, in 2005, their number in the second preference visa category was not current. They patiently waited in line for a visa number to become available. Two years later in July 2007, their number became available, but the older son was over 21. Would he be able to immigrate with his mother as a derivative along with his younger brother and sister? Each family member, mom and three kids had to file a separate petition, get a medical examination, do fingerprints and a background check. This cost the family about $5000 in application, medical and biometrics fees before fees increased at the end of July 2007!

In November 2007, the family went for an interview at the immigration office in Chicago. Thanks to the Child Status Protection Act and its intricate formula for protecting “child status” the immigration officer agreed with us that the older son was under 21 for immigration purposes. Mr. Gomez’s wife and the three children were granted permanent resident status at the end of 2007 – 20 years after dad first applied!

The daughter graduated from grade school and high school. She became a U.S. citizen when she turned 18 and graduated from college last June. The sons have married, immigrated their wives and are raising their children in Chicago. Family is the chain that binds us. Family reunification is the foundation of U.S. immigration law.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family

Sister Bernadine Karge is a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister and a former “Nun on the Bus.”

Sisters Advocate for a Faithful Budget

Sisters Advocate for a Faithful Budget

Catherine Gillette
January 17, 2018

Congress is once again struggling to reach a deal on the federal budget in order to avoid a government shut-down.  With so many important programs and the lives of so many people on the line, NETWORK believes that passing a faithful budget is absolutely essential. And we are not alone in that belief.

This past fall, NETWORK collected nearly a thousand letters written by Catholic sisters to House Speaker Paul Ryan about the federal budget. While the sisters come from different congregations, live in different parts of the country, and work on many different issues, the underlying message of their letters was the same: our federal budget must prioritize programs that help our nation’s most vulnerable people.

In December, Sister Erica Jordan, OP and Sister Ruth Brings, SSSF (both Speaker Ryan’s constituents) flew from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. to meet with Speaker Ryan’s Deputy Chief of Staff and deliver the letters.  Shortly after they already arrived in D.C., their meeting was abruptly canceled.  They flew back to Wisconsin without being able to share their concerns or the collected letters with Speaker Ryan’s office.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

NETWORK is committed to working with Members of Congress and our partners to ensure that these stories are lifted up and the letters, delivered. We call on Speaker Ryan and the rest of Congress to listen to these faithful voices and pass a faithful budget.

Here are just a few of the voices and issues raised up in the letters we received:

“Tax cuts for the wealthy do not serve the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized.  This year, natural catastrophic storms have devastated and impacted thousands of people.  How will your tax cuts rebuild these lives and communities that we know from past storm experience take 5 to 10 years for full recovery? Will these homeless families truly benefit from your budget plans?” –Sister Roberta Feil, SC

“Catholic Social Justice requires all of us to act as our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.  One way we can meet the needs of our human family is by ensuring all people have access to quality, affordable healthcare.” –Sister Kathleen Quigley, SC

“I have witnessed first-hand the violent and senseless ripping away of parents from their children by ICE.  These are people who are hard-working and contributing members of our church and communities.  Every family deserves stability and security and children in our nation should not have to live with the fear that their parents could be taken from them at any moment.  I urge you to reject additional funding for border enforcement, including but not limited to building a border wall.  As a nation of immigrants, we are called to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor.” –Sister Sharon Costello, CSJ

“I am asking you to promote a federal budget that is a reflection of the values of the nation and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  The federal budget is a moral document that reflects the priorities of the nation.  A budget worthy of this nation must prioritize human needs programs, ensure funding to care for the vulnerable members of society, restore economic opportunities, and invest in the common good.” –Sister Colleen Dauerbach, SSJ

Finally, before leaving Washington, Sisters Erica and Ruth took the time to share their message to Speaker Ryan with us at the NETWORK office. Watch the video below:

Remembering Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ

Remembering NETWORK Lobbyist Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ

The NETWORK Staff
January 3, 2018

“Catherine is a woman of vision—and is led by a vision of what God desires of us—justice, truth, and a dignified life.” (Ann Curtis, RSM)

“We really cannot measure the value of her service to women religious in the United States and in the world.” (Miriam Therese Larkin, CSJ)

“Catherine knows in her bones how Washington works and whom to talk with to get something accomplished…her leadership is a unique blend of friendship and astute analysis.” (Simone Campbell, SSS)

Former Network Director Sr. Kathy Thornton RSM wrote: “It is perhaps on Capitol Hill that [Catherine] has had the strongest impact, commanding attention with her intelligence and unwavering determination as an advocate for those unduly burdened by the injustices of society. …  Catherine has become a formidable presence in the halls of Congress.

Jean Stokan, policy director of Pax Christi USA:  “When Catherine walks the halls of Congress, she parts waters. Heads turn and useless chatter ceases when she enters a room.”

 (Tributes to Catherine Pinkerton when she received the 2006 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award )

On December 28, 2017, Sister Catherine Pinkerton, CSJ passed away in Cleveland surrounded by the local CSJ community. Catherine Pinkerton was a sister of St. Joseph for 78 years. She served as the president of both her congregation and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), was involved in other organizations of women religious, and received the LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award in 2006.

As a skilled NETWORK lobbyist for more than 25 years, Catherine traveled the halls of Congress time and time again to speak truth to power. Catherine’s personality and her dedication to working for justice inspired the NETWORK community and earned her the esteem and friendship of political greats. In 2008, Sister Catherine Pinkerton was invited to deliver the benediction at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (watch a video of the benediction).

At Catherine’s wake, Sister Simone Campbell reflected on how Catherine’s perseverance and lobbying for comprehensive healthcare reform during the Clinton administration had prepared the way for the Affordable Care Act. Sister Simone shared how happy Catherine was to see it passed just before she retired in 2010.

When efforts to craft comprehensive healthcare legislation faltered in the 1990s, Sister Catherine Pinkerton became a passionate advocate for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance. CHIP was passed in 1997 and has enjoyed bipartisan support since then. Unfortunately, at this moment CHIP lacks any long term federal funding, and states are beginning to prepare for the inevitable end of their CHIP programs if Congress fails to renew funding as quickly as possible. Right now, sixteen states expect to run out of money for CHIP by the end of January.

In her eulogy for Catherine Pinkerton, Christine Schenk, CSJ, admonished all who were gathered to call their members of Congress to ask for full funding for CHIP and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. As Christine said: “I’m serious—Catherine would come back to haunt me if I didn’t lobby for children on her behalf!”

In honor of Sister Catherine Pinkerton’s life and work, advocate for justice today:

Our Challenging National Reality: Facing Our Failure to House Everybody

Our Challenging National Reality

Facing Our Failure to House Everybody
Simone Campbell, SSS
November 24, 2017

I live in Southwest Washington which 13 years ago when I moved in was an undiscovered portion of the District. Rents were affordable. There are housing projects across the street. It was a great multiracial, economically diverse part of town. Then development started with the Nationals’ baseball park and high rise luxury condominiums. When I moved in I had a clear view of the palisades on the other side of the Anacostia River. Now we are being hemmed in with construction of unaffordable condos. This has me worried. Where are low wage working families going to live?

This is not only a DC phenomenon. All of the cities I have visited have the same story. In Indianapolis at the Immigrant Welcome Center’s GED class, I heard of low wage working families being evicted from houses so the owners can sell them to developers. It was impossible for these families to find housing in their old neighborhood and they had to move out of the city.

In Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, I was shocked when I visited last year for the first time since 2012. The neighborhood is completely changed. New construction and restored historic buildings line the street. When we met with trainees at Venice on Vine restaurant in the old neighborhood, they spoke of how their community had changed. They were no longer able to live in the area. Services for low income families had moved to other areas. It was difficult to commute because public transit is so spotty and set up for the “old city” not the new reality.

In Milwaukee I met Billy and his wife who, after trying to live with their two sons in their car, decided to pool their salaries for rent and use food stamps and the free dining room at St. Benedict the Moor parish to feed their family. In San Jose, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley, I met parishioners who open their church parking lot/school playground every evening so that homeless families can park their car in a safe place for the night. Almost all of these “car families” have working parents.

In short, our neighborhoods are transforming before our eyes, and our housing policy cannot handle the current reality. We at NETWORK realized that if we are going to Mend the Gaps in income and wealth disparity, we must address housing policy. There needs to be a new burst of creativity to impact this twenty-first century reality.

Housing is one of those critical issues that has so many ripple effects. The value of housing stock affects property taxes and the amount of money available for local schools. Housing also affects the need for public transit and the ability to be near work. Urban housing policy affects the amount of “green space” and the sense of safety and serenity in a city. Housing affects the ability of families to live free from the fear of being homeless. In short, housing is at the heart of the health of our nation.

In the United States we pride ourselves on being problem solvers. However we are failing our communities on this housing dilemma. First we must begin to pay attention to what is actually happening in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Watch for both creative ideas and continuing problems. Talk to your neighbors and asked your local and federal representatives what they are doing to address our lack of safe, affordable housing.

And hold this issue in your reflective prayer. Let us ask the Spirit the question: “Where are you calling us to act in addressing the housing crisis?” Then share with us what you hear. I believe it will be like Elijah who waited for the word in the loud bluster, thunder and lightning and heard nothing. It wasn’t until the gentle breeze that the word of the Spirit came. Let us as a community be attuned to that “wee small voice” so we might find the way forward for the sake of our struggling family.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

A Budget Is a Moral Document

A Budget Is a Moral Document

Sister Kathleen Kanet
October 26, 2017

When you are frustrated and in pain over the political direction of your country, what do you do? The source of much of my anguish was over our 2018 Federal Budget.

To me a budget is a moral document. What I saw in this proposed budget were more benefits for the rich and fewer for the poor. I kept thinking and praying about how to reverse the situation. Who in the world has the moral authority to speak out on behalf of the poor? Why, of course, the nuns, the sisters in our country who could write letters to the author of that selfish document!

Here is a bit of the story of a project which I have begun: a call for American sisters and nuns to write letters to Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the main author and advocate of this very harsh budget.

Since the beginning of our country, U.S. sisters have been on the side of the poor and have worked toward the common good. We have many stories to tell which could encourage our political leaders to change our present policies. Who better than American sisters to help articulate what a faithful and just budget, inclusive for all, would be?

Many of us in religious life grew up with Vatican II. I am grateful that my congregation helped me to interiorize and to live out the mission of Jesus as he announced it: To bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free! And to do so in joy!

This is the basis of my hope that this fall, many hundreds or even thousands of American sisters will be writing personal letters to a fellow Catholic, Paul Ryan. In our letters we will be sharing our stories about the needs of those we encounter in our ministries, and we will ask him to craft a budget that promotes the human dignity of all peoples.

It is lamentable that care for people who are poor, ill or elderly, for children, single mothers, and our beloved Earth is woefully missing in the proposed 2018 federal budget. Ironically, though, it calls for tax cuts for corporations and the rich and boosts a big military buildup. This letter-writing campaign is a great opportunity to “announce good news to the poor” and to promote the common good for all.

NETWORK , (founded by a group of Catholic women religious in 1971 to do Catholic social justice lobbying) has a proven track record of effective lobbying on economic issues. In the famous Nuns On the Bus effort of 2012, they traveled the country to draw attention to sisters’ work with the poor and to protest aid cuts on that year’s federal budget proposed by Paul Ryan.

This year, NETWORK was to introduce this campaign at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) meeting in August. Soon after, NETWORK should be following up with an invitation to all the sisters in the United States, to participate in a letter-writing campaign. They will coordinate the reception of the letters and will present them to Paul Ryan — with visits to other members of Congress — late in 2017.

Writing personal letters to Paul Ryan about the federal budget, and telling him and other lawmakers how that budget, as designed, will hurt many of the people we have worked with, are sorely needed prophetic actions.

It won’t be as easy as signing a letter or petition, or sending an email or making a phone call. It will take time, thought and commitment.

Currently, I am working with about two dozen of my own sisters of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary to think about the letters we will be writing. We have had two meetings and more are planned for the coming few months. At the first meeting, 17 of us sat in a circle, listened to the invitation to this project, prayed quietly and then went around the circle sharing thoughts and comments. I heard “Great idea!” “Something concrete we can do!” “It is prophetic!” “Positive initiative.” As I listened to those initial comments, I was so encouraged.

In the past few months I have spoken with more than 100 sisters and others regarding this idea. Since I have been working in peace and justice initiatives for almost all my religious life, these conversations have been joyful reunions for me.

One of my first encounters was with a sister at LCWR. As I introduced myself to her, I mentioned that I was part of the Justice Peace Education Council, which in the 1980s presented hundreds of “Infusion Curriculum” workshops in Catholic schools in more than 50 dioceses throughout the country. Immediately she said, “Oh, I attended one and I remember it so well — it was so positive.” (The records of JPEC have been placed in the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, but are not yet available.)

I’m also encouraged to hear about the about the wonderful works of sisters already engaged in trying to promote the common good and change the moral imperative in our country. The founding director of NETWORK is still working for Earth justice at her motherhouse. One younger sister sends regular positive tweets to President Trump, modeling comments of love, healing, peace, goodness and relationship. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the support and participation of all the sisters in the US?

Many of us are now beginning to wonder — in addition to the letters, how can we share this prophetic action with others in our country? Besides writing the letters and encouraging other sisters to get involved, how can we publicize this action to our family, friends and the public? How can we communicate our excitement at the possibility of filling the U.S. media with a new social vision?

There now exists a Facebook page: “A Fair and Moral Budget: Nuns Write Letters to Paul Ryan.” Join it and ask others on Facebook to do the same. Send us something to put on this page. Contact your communications people and ask them to be involved.

Hold a workshop writing meeting with your retired (but active) sisters.

When you write your letter, share it with others.

As do so many other powerful actions, this is beginning as a grassroots initiative — and now it is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

We ask for your prayers from all over the globe for the success of this venture!

Reposted by permission of Global Sisters Report.

Dear Paul Ryan: An Open Letter

Dear Paul Ryan: An Open Letter

By Sister Susan Francois
October 20, 2017

Dear Rep. Ryan,

By now, you may have noticed that you are the focus of a little project by Catholic sisters in this country who are concerned about the devastating effects of proposed cuts to the federal budget. In particular, many of us are seriously worried about potential cuts to human-needs programs that will harm the most vulnerable members of our society.

I know you already received an in-person, not to mention televised, message from Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Erica Jordan. I don’t know Sister Erica personally, but I thought she did a pretty good job of framing the critical moral questions we need you and your colleagues in Congress to grapple with around the budget.

Ultimately, if we are to be a government of, for, and by the people, then we need to take into account not just numbers, but the real lives of people. Furthermore, for those of us for whom our Catholic faith provides a moral compass, we know that Jesus challenges us to have a particular concern for those who are living in poverty and struggling to provide for their families in our harsh economic reality.

Sister Erica, of course, spoke to you as one Catholic to another. Over the years, you have been vocal about your faith. I remember clearly being impacted by your response to the address of Pope Francis to Congress. It was so very genuine.

“He’s been calling for a dialogue and talking about very important principles about the dignity of every human person and how we need to attend to this,” you said then. You also cautioned against politicizing the pope’s message. “If a person tries to politicize this speech for some issue or partisan gain, that diminishes from the message itself.”

Everything gets politicized these days, doesn’t it? Politicized and polarized. If you think about it, our entire lifetimes (I’m about two years younger than you, according to your Wikipedia profile) have been a time of hyperpolarization, leading to the current gridlock in Washington and a decided lack of helpful discourse and debate in the public sphere, let alone dialogue!

I am heartened that you value Pope Francis’ call to dialogue. I also hope that if and when you read this letter, it will be received in the spirit with which it is intended — namely, dialogue.

In your conversation with Sister Erica on CNN, you shared your appreciation for the model of Catholic organizations that help the poor. You expressed that they do a “fantastic job in spite of government doing wraparound benefits for the poor to make sure that they get to where they are — from where they are to where they need to be.”

My religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, sponsors and supports nonprofit services for low-income women in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Seattle with a similar model. Both the York Street Project and Jubilee Women’s Center provide such wraparound services, treat the whole person, and assist the women they serve on their journey to self-sufficiency.

I found it interesting that you referenced the year 1985 in your response to Sister Erica, because that is around the time my sisters started both these innovative programs.

I agree with you that we need to encourage and support such programs, but as partners with government, not replacements for our civic duty to promote the general welfare. Such programs do not do a fantastic job in spite of government, but in tandem with life-giving government programs like the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which are in jeopardy in the budget proposals under consideration. At the York Street Project, for example, CDBG funds support the job readiness program at Kenmare High School, helping women who previously dropped out of the public school system to find jobs that will support their families.

You also told Sister Erica that we need to look at how we measure success in anti-poverty programs, shifting focus from dollars spent to outcomes.

“Is it working?” you asked. “Are people getting out of poverty?”

I agree that these are the key questions, but helping people get out of poverty requires an investment, not budget cuts. Program effectiveness is not free.

The women who come to Jubilee Women’s Center and York Street Project are motivated to break the cycle of poverty, as are the dedicated staff who journey with them. Yet the path from homelessness to stable housing is not an easy one. It is also complicated by real-life factors. Fifty-three percent of the women at Jubilee are survivors of domestic violence; 49 percent are coping with mental health challenges; 28 percent have physical health challenges; and 17 percent are in recovery from substance abuse. Knowing all this is one thing, but actually meeting the residents and hearing their stories of resilience is powerful.

At the same time, their resilience and our programs are not enough. Our creative and persistent staff navigate a patchwork of constantly changing government programs to help the women find stable permanent housing, including housing and urban development funds for rental assistance and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps working moms keep the lights on with a minimum-wage job. To be honest, we need more funding, not less, to reach the outcomes you name.

Take the example of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These are not just alphabet soup, but federal programs that add up to real soup for hungry kids and their parents.

When I visited St. Joseph’s Home at York Street, I saw the kitchen where staff help mothers learn how to cook homemade meals for their little ones with ingredients that make these dollars stretch to cover the whole month. This is no easy task on already-limited funds, and the proposed federal budget decreases this life-supporting funding.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift. And in any case, you will be receiving hundreds, if not thousands, more letters from Catholic sisters sharing real-life stories like these.

Please, Speaker Ryan, take these messages to heart. Consider them part of an ongoing dialogue, one that seeks to break through the partisan bickering and polarized debate and find common ground to serve the common good. I implore you to help craft a federal budget that attends both to the general welfare of our nation, but also the particular needs of the most vulnerable families in our country.


Reposted by permission of Global Sisters Report.

[Susan Rose Francois is a member of the Congregation Leadership Team for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. She was a Bernardin scholar at Catholic Theological Union and has ministered as a justice educator and advocate. Read more of her work on her blog, At the Corner of Susan and St. Joseph.]

Sr. Simone responds to Bannon’s Comments about Immigrants and the Church

Sr. Simone responds to Steve Bannon’s Comments about Immigrants and the Church

September 7, 2017

 

 

Choosing Solidarity over Indifference

Choosing Solidarity over Indifference

Simone Campbell, SSS
July 24, 2017

When I say to groups that our primary issue to mend the income and wealth gap in our nation is tax policy, I often see eyes glaze over or people get ready to argue. But for us here at NETWORK, our faith leads us to engage this as a top priority and here is why!

What we have to remember is that from 1949 to 1979 every level of our society shared our post-war prosperity. The top marginal tax rate hovered around 80 percent. With that high of a tax rate at the top, executives were not as focused on increasing their salaries. In 1965, the average salary for a CEO was 20 times the amount for the average salaries of their workers.

This all changed in the 1980’s with the advent of Ronald Reagan and his “trickle-down economics.” Reagan and other supporters of this theory slashed tax rates for the top income bracket to less than 30 percent, and top executive salaries began to skyrocket while workers’ wages stagnated. In 2015, the average CEO salary was 303 times their workers’ average salaries. This is fueling our income and wealth disparity and hurting our people.

As Pope Francis says in Joy of the Gospel, paragraph 54:

…Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.

This is the problem we have in our nation. The majority of people seem to be indifferent as the wealthiest people become more and more out of touch with those who are in the bottom 60 percent economically in our nation. We are becoming too far away from each other to be aware of our neighbors’ real needs.

Trickle-down economics has driven a wedge between those at the top and the rest of us, and our whole nation suffers as a result. But Speaker Paul Ryan and his colleagues continue to push trickle-down policies that give even more money to those who already have too much. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that passed in the House of Representatives gave $680 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy over the next 10 years while taking away healthcare from 24 million people. This is wrong in any nation, but especially in a nation that can afford to provide care for its people.

NETWORK’s position on tax policy is at the heart of our solution to this challenging reality. We believe that everyone should pay a fair share. We also know that tax policy can promote or discourage certain behaviors. Our reflection and prayer lead us to say, let’s create tax policies that preference the common good and work to end the racial wealth gap.

We dream of incentives for corporations and business owners whose executives are paid no more than 40 or 50 times what their lowest-paid employee makes. Or – what if businesses that pay a living wage received a tax credit because their workers are not relying on the social safety net? Could the home mortgage interest deduction be designed to offset the serious and systemic housing discrimination people of color have experienced over generations?  These are just a few ideas, but the bottom line is that we need to end failed trickle-down policies and open our minds to a new way forward.

So, we urge you to join us in ending the indifference to unjust tax policies that is rife in our country. New tax policy will be created when our hearts are broken open to the needs of those around us. We all suffer in a system of cold, harsh individualism. Such a system is not aligned with our faith teachings or with the best of our nation. Let’s establish a tax policy that pays for the services our nation really needs and actively reduces the income and wealth gap. It is possible to achieve this goal through prayer and action. The time is now!

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Time for Moral Leadership on Medicaid from So-Called ‘Pro-Life’ Senate Republicans

Time for Moral Leadership on Medicaid from So-Called ‘Pro-Life’ Senate Republicans

Simone Campbell, SSS
June 26, 2017

Originally published at www.thehill.com.

When people hear that I, a Catholic Sister, work on healthcare in Washington, D.C., I’m met with mixed reactions. There is no doubt — many Americans have lots of feelings about the myriad issues under the healthcare umbrella. For me, it boils down to making sure that as many people as possible have access to life-saving healthcare coverage.

In 2010, I made sure that Congress knew that passing the Affordable Care Act was part of a pro-life stance, and now, over 20 million more Americans are covered because of this life-saving bill! But now, as Senate Republicans seek to rush through a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the most secretive manner, I want to call their bluff on their proclaimed pro-life stance.

I am outraged to see allegedly pro-life Republicans put forward a healthcare bill that will strip millions of people of their healthcare. Not only that, but this bill preys on the most vulnerable! This is antithetical to any faith. The House and Senate healthcare proposals are the antithesis of a pro-life stance and needs to be named as such. People will lose their lives if this bill becomes law.

It used to be very difficult for women to find insurance coverage for pre-natal and maternity care. Under current law, maternal health (pregnancy and postpartum services) is an essential benefit, which insurers must offer without charging extra. This is a pro-life benefit — but the GOP is set to eliminate the essential health benefits, including maternity care, for millions of expecting mothers.

This bill that the Senate is days away from voting on would bring us back to a time when “maternity riders” forced women to pay more than many could afford just to bring a child into the world.” This is not pro-life.

Even worse, the Republicans plan to cut and cap Medicaid funding for people with disabilities and those living below the poverty level in our nation. But what many don’t know is that 45 percent of births in the United States are paid for by Medicaid!

The Senate bill ends Medicaid as we know it, and as a result these “pro-life” members of Congress are actually disregarding the needs of moms and their newborn children. Supporting Medicaid funding is a pro-life stance.

Further, Medicaid dollars benefit seniors residing in nursing homes, including many Catholic Sisters who have served their entire lives tending to the most vulnerable. It also affects people with disabilities, whose care can be too expensive for a family to manage. But, Republican efforts to cut Medicaid funding arbitrarily will jeopardize their lives and wellbeing. Taking money away from seniors, people in poverty and people with disabilities is wrong. Everyone has a right to live in dignity.

I fight for healthcare because I fight for the lives of our people. But, I am angry that by moving ahead with their American Health Care Act spin-off, Republican Senators are only concerned with lining the pockets of the wealthiest and are doing so at the expense of Medicaid and our most vulnerable people. If Republicans are truly pro-life, then they will place people, not corporate interests, at the center of their decision-making. And, when people are healthier, we all do better.

So my pro-life colleagues: Listen up. To be pro-life requires us to care about ALL of life, not just birth or death. Mothers and their infants need medical coverage. The disabled and the elderly need the promise that they can live in dignity for their entire natural life. This means that we must not cap individual or state expenditures for Medicaid or remove services from the defined benefits. It also means that we must not block grant Medicaid to the states or institute a per capita cap.

As the richest nation on earth, we can care for all of life if we choose. All other developed nations have accomplished it. Do we have the will to put our people over yet more tax cuts for the 1 percent? As a person of faith, I say that we must. It is a mandate of my faith and a call to the common good. So Senators, please, reject the so-called “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” and let’s have a real conversation that doesn’t include 23 million Americans losing their healthcare.