LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Universal health care negates religious issue

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has devoted considerable energy protesting the religious freedom of employers (e.g. hospitals, schools) associated with the Catholic Church is being compromised by the Department of Health and Human Services requirement for health plans to provide reproductive health care.

I would suggest that if the bishops are truly concerned about freedom of religious expression for all with regard to health-care choices, their efforts would be best spent in lobbying with even greater vigor for a universal health-care system in which access to care is not tied to one's employer.

In such a system, all people could choose to follow their conscience and choose to avail themselves of reproductive health care, or not. An employer's religious beliefs would not be restricted, nor would the employer dictate the health-care choices available to its employees, who might not share the employer's same religious convictions.

The bishops claim in a recent statement that this debate is not about access to contraception, religious freedom of only Catholics, opposition to universal health care or the church wanting to force anybody to do anything.

If the bishops truly believe this, then a concerted effort to make access to health care available to all, without ties to an employer, could eliminate the controversy and do much less harm to religious freedom then having employers, Catholic or otherwise, dictate what are the right health-care choices for their employees.

Jim Russo

Walla Walla

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