Nienstedt: Church speaks with 'moral voice' on health care reform

Bishop John Nienstedt
Archbishop John Nienstedt is the spiritual leader of Catholics in the St. Paul and Minneapolise archdiocese.
MPR Photo/Greta Cunningham

Archbishop John Nienstedt reiterated the Catholic Church's opposition to any health care reform bill that would allow abortion coverage, in an interview with MPR's All Things Considered on Thursday.

Nienstedt, the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, called health care "essential for the human life and dignity of every person," but said the Catholic Church will not support health care legislation unless it meets specific church demands.

"I believe that health care reform is necessary," said Nienstedt. "I'm all in favor of that. The question is, What kind of health care do we want as a nation? And any health care program that would include the killing of the unborn is unacceptable."

Nienstedt said that parishioners should oppose any bill that allows abortion or euthanasia coverage, rations care for the elderly, or lacks a "conscience clause" to allow medical providers to opt out of performing abortions or other procedures they consider immoral.

The Catholic Church has attracted controversy for its lobbying efforts in the health care debate, particularly for its efforts to ban abortion coverage in public option insurance plans.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to U.S. senators in November urging lawmakers to oppose abortion coverage, provide coverage for illegal immigrants and expand coverage for low-income Americans.

"I don't see that as political muscle," Nienstedt said. "I think that's the moral voice of the church speaking."

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