September 16, 2011
“Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families, their employees or those most in need." - Cardinal DiNardo
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is asking parishes and Catholics to take action by writing to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Congress with comments opposing a recent HHS issued "interim final rule" that will require all private health plans to cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, sterilization procedures and related "patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity." Americans will have until September 30 to comment. The USCCB as well as The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA) are assisting pro-life Americans by easily directing individuals where to send comments and what can be included in their messages of opposition.
The pending regulations are considered a new threat to conscience protection and could take effect in August 2012. Regardless of whether the insurer, employer, other plan sponsor or even the woman herself objects to such coverage, the types of services the mandate would require private health plans to cover are being listed as "preventive services for women," and will be included without co-pays or other cost-sharing. This would also include drugs that can cause chemical abortions, as these "preventive services" seemingly treat pregnancy like any other disease the HHS would work to prevent.
In addition the mandate would pose great problems especially for Catholic institutions including charities that serve the needy, healthcare facilities, schools and other organizations seeing that the rule states an "incredibly narrow definition" of a religious employer for exemption from the mandate. According to the rule, religious entities would not qualify for exemption if they serve people of other faiths and failed to hire based on religion.
In response to the HHS' mandate, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chair of the bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities wrote in a letter to Congress that, "HHS’s new mandate for contraception/sterilization coverage, by contrast, includes an incredibly narrow exemption for 'religious employers' that protects almost no one. For example, a Catholic institution serving the poor and needy would have to fire its non-Catholic staff, refuse life-affirming care to non-Catholic people in need, and devote itself instead to 'the inculcation of religious values' to qualify for the exemption. Individuals, insurers, and the sponsors of non-employee health plans (e.g., student health plans in Catholic schools) would have no exemption at all. This effort to corral religion exclusively into the sanctuaries of houses of worship betrays a complete ignorance of the role of religion in American life, and of Congress’s long tradition of far more helpful laws on religious freedom."
Below are links to more information regarding the mandate and announcements from the USCCB. Please continue to pray for the protection of all life as well as the protection of our religious freedom and morals that can easily be threatened with the passing and implementation of such mandates.
Read more about this threat to conscience and other alerts at USCCB.org
Read Cardinal DiNardo's letter to Congress regarding this mandate
Take action: Read more on NCHLA.org and send comments to the HHS
Take action: Read more on NCHLA.org and e-mail comments to Congress