Our Last Chance to Protect Women’s Health Coverage

Senate and House leaders are in the final stages of negotiating the content of the health care reform bill that could be voted on in both houses next week. A new article on UUA.org details the experiences of three Unitarian Universalist religious leaders as advocates for reproductive justice and abortion rights and describes the harmful provisions in the current reform bills:

The Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House health care reform bill prevents women from using their own funds to purchase an insurance plan that includes abortion coverage in the new health insurance exchanges — taking away essential coverage that most insurance plans provide today.

Senator Ben Nelson’s addition to the Senate bill is an unworkable and unfair approach to abortion coverage by imposing arbitrary hurdles to secure coverage for abortion care. Under this provision, women would be forced to write two different checks to their insurance provider – one for abortion coverage and one for the rest of their insurance package.

Nelson’s provision makes it less likely for insurance companies to offer abortion coverage at all and presents a significant security risk to women purchasing this coverage. Both provisions would take away the coverage that most women have today and as such, they violate the very spirit of health care reform – extending comprehensive health insurance coverage to those who are most in need.

You can read the full article on UUA.org.

The UUA believes that we all have the right to make decisions about our own bodies based on our own values. Poor women, immigrant women and women of color are among those who are already disproportionately impacted by lack of access to safe and affordable contraception and abortion care, as well as by current laws restricting the use of public funds for abortion. If either of the current restrictions in the House and Senate bills pass with the final legislation, millions more women could lose the abortion coverage that they have today. Health care reform is about expanding coverage, not taking it away.

January 22nd is the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision, which will be commemorated in Washington, D.C. by a rally sponsored by the D.C. Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Find out how women’s organizations in your area are commemorating this day by searching online or contacting them.

No matter where you live there is still time to raise your voice as a person of faith who supports health care reform. Please call your members of Congress today and urge them to strike the Stupak-Pitts amendment and the Nelson check provision from the final bill.

Rev. Cain Publishes Letter Supporting Stimulus Package

Rev. Cynthia Cain, minister of the UU Church of Lexington, published a letter-to-the-editor in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Saturday calling on the Senate to pass the economic stimulus package. She used some of the statistics within the Washington Office’s letter to the Senate calling on them to Right our Moral Balance.

The stimulus package is expected to be voted on today or tomorrow. Once voted upon, it will go to a conference committee made up of leaders from the Senate and the House of Representatives. That committee will reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The reconciled bill that emerges from that committee has to be approved by the full House and Senate before going to President Obama for his signature.

Congress returns to their home districts this Friday for a week long in-district work period. It is essential that they complete this work before Friday!

Now is a crucial time to write letters to your local paper calling for your members of Congress to finish work on the stimulus package so that America can get back to work. The Washington Office for Advocacy has a resource offering many useful tips on writing a letter-to-the-editor.

Join us in supporting the stimulus package to save and create jobs, improve our shared infrastructure, develop safe and modern learning environments, and meet the sustainable energy needs of the future.

Join the UUA Washington Office’s Call for Senators to Pass Stimulus Package

Yesterday, the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy sent every Senator a letter calling for passage of the economic stimulus package and a document comparing spending components of the stimulus package with the ten largest military contracts from 2008.

Now is the time to tell your Senators to pass this important legislation. We are getting word that Senate offices are hearing far more from constituents who oppose the package. Read our document and then call both your Senators using the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to act quickly and pass the economic stimulus plan!

Bipartisan Interfaith Prayer Service: Praying with Pelosi

This morning, I joined Shelley Moskowitz of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) in attending the 111th Congress Bipartisan Interfaith Prayer Service at the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church. For many members of Congress, the prayer service is time of reflection and centering before taking the oath of office.

Prior to the service Shelley introduced me to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, whom she has known for twenty years when they were both working towards peace and justice in Central America. It was a great honor.

The service appropriately began with the hymn My Country ‘Tis of Thee, followed by Republican and Democratic Members of Congress reading from the Qur’an, Hebrew Bible, and New Testament. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) offered the first reflection on the story of the Good Samaritan. He called upon his colleagues to put aside their differences, get off their high horses, as did the Samaritan, and remember their obligations to their constituents, especially the least among them.

Rep. John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, offered a Litany of Intercessions, which included a call for peace on earth and an end to violence, words that had deep meaning for me as I thought of the violence in Israel and Gaza. The Lord’s Prayer was then recited in Spanish by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX).

Rep. Nancy Pelosi offered the final reflection on the story of the loaves and the fishes. She affirmed the miraculous nature of Jesus the Shepherd feeding 5,000 people, not counting women and children, with five loaves and two fish. But she added a belief that the miracle alone did not feed all gathered; the miracle itself was multiplied as it inspired others within the crowd to produce and share what little they had as well. Her interpretation was poignant in this time of economic turmoil.

It was a poignant service, moving many to the verge of tears. In the middle of the service, a soprano, Andrea Trusty, sang a soulful version of Let There Be Peace on Earth. When she finished, Shelley leaned toward me and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they opened each day with that song?”

With the Representatives gathered facing an economic crisis, war in the Middle East, and global climate change, I got the sense that they wouldn’t mind that at all. The 111th Congress has huge challenges to face; inspiration and prayer is needed. Let us remember that in the months ahead.