[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/17/art.bochurch0317.gi.jpg caption="A progressive Catholic advocacy organization announced Wednesday that a group of Catholic nuns is supporting the Senate health care reform bill backed by President Obama."]
Washington (CNN) – A group of Catholic nuns is urging Congress to pass health care reform, breaking ranks with bishops who say the current bill does not do enough to block federal money from being used to fund abortions.
"We write to urge you to cast a life-affirming 'yes' vote when the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) comes to the floor of the House for a vote as early as this week," a group of nuns wrote in a letter to members of Congress released Wednesday by NETWORK, progressive Catholic advocacy organization.
NETWORK said the 55 signatories represent tens of thousands of Catholic nuns in the United States.
The letter argues that the legislation "will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children."
"And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," the letter reads. "It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."
The nuns are siding with the Catholic Health Association, a group representing Catholic hospitals, which offered its support for reform earlier this week.
Both groups are diverging from the powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stepped up its criticism of the bill in recent days. The president of the bishops conference, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, said Monday that the bill's language on abortion is not restrictive enough to satisfy Catholics.
"It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures," George said in a statement. "In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born."
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