Ahead of the 118th Congress that kicks off shortly after the New Year, U.S. bishops’ conference chairmen have sent a letter to Congress imploring the nation’s elected leaders to prioritize policies focused on the “health, safety, and flourishing” of women, children and families.
The letter outlines a detailed vision for “an authentically life-affirming society,” which professes hope for the day where abortion is unthinkable, there’s an economy that fully supports the family, and the central role of immigrant families within society are recognized.
The six-page letter also includes 15 policy recommendations for Congress to consider. Before detailing those recommendations, the bishops offered a reminder on the importance of bipartisanship.
“We implore you to work together to find bipartisan solutions and ensure that these and other similar legislative proposals are given high priority,” the prelates said. “We hope with a particular concern that we all can agree on coming to the aid of pregnant and single parenting women in need, so that they will have the support, comfort, and hope that they require to build their lives for the better and realize their aspirations.”
The letter was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration.
The letter comes about two weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, where the balance of power in both the House of Representatives and the Senate could shift. 35 of the 100 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election on November 8.
In their message to Congress, the USCCB officials describe this past summer’s Dobbs decision – where the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and sent abortion law to the states – an extraordinary step forward, but emphasize that there is more work to do. They echoed Saint John II, calling for “radical solidarity” with mothers, babies and families throughout each person’s entire lifespan.
“We are praying and working for changes in hearts and minds, circumstances and policy, that will help everyone to treasure each and every fellow human being in a society oriented to supporting children and their parents,” the bishops wrote.
Other emphases of the letter include ensuring that no children grow up in poverty, the provision of affordable healthcare and childcare, and workplace policies promote healthy family life and respect pregnant and nursing mothers, and that families are formed and remain intact.
“All of these goals require the cooperation of all and the exclusion of none,” the bishops said. “Goals like these cannot be achieved by individual efforts alone and will necessarily require collaborative work on the part of our government leaders.”
The letter adds that men’s advancement in the workplace must not compromise their role as fathers. On immigrants, it states that they “cannot accept” policies that exclude newcomers as the country continues to rely on and benefit from their labors.
Among the policy recommendations in the letter are the pregnant Workers Fairness Act that prohibits employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable accommodations for qualified employees. Another recommendation enhanced child tax credit that makes the credit fully refundable, nixes a minimum income threshold, and makes mixed-status families eligible.
The bishops also call for federal paid family leave, greater access to child care and pre-K programs for families, affordable housing initiatives, nutrition programs to feed hungry families, pregnancy resource centers, and policies that help pregnant students complete their education.
The Catholics leaders said they hope to work with Congress to accomplish these goals.
“We stand ready to work with you to bring forward solutions in light of these aspirations and encourage long-term and ongoing dialogue on how the policies and laws of our country can be improved to support all children and families,” they wrote.