Friday, February 3, 2012

Health Care Regulations Threaten Religious Freedom

     A few days ago the Secretary of the U S Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling that mandated almost all employers, including the Catholic church and other religious organizations, must provide in their health insurance plans, the coverage of all FDA approved contraceptive services. Approved “contraceptives” include sterilization and abortifacient drugs. Exceptions may be had for those whose services are “primarily to members of their own constituency.” Perhaps this sounds like a reasonable exception. However, through its hospitals and charities, it is hardly likely the Catholic Church would be exempt. Catholic health care and charity is certainly not limited to those of the Catholic faith.
     The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a strong objection, as have many of the bishops around the nation. Here is the letter from Francis DiLorenzo, the bishop of the diocese of Richmond:
     I wrote my senators about this matter. I received this reply from Senator Mark Warner:

Thank you for contacting me regarding reforms to our health care system. I appreciate your thoughts on this issue.
Following a recommendation from the nonprofit, independent Institute of Medicine, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued final guidelines on January 20, 2012, regarding what constitutes preventive health services. These preventive services will be offered by most private health insurance plans without the requirement of cost-sharing or co-payments. Under these new rules, preventive services for women will include screening for various diseases, well-woman visits, and all FDA-approved forms of contraception. Abortion is not part of the covered services.
I have heard from advocates on both sides of the reproductive health debate, and I understand that positions on the issue come from moral, religious and political values that, for many, cannot be compromised. Nothing in this new guideline changes the existing conscience laws that give service providers the right to refuse to perform certain medical procedures to which they are morally opposed. It also does not change the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal dollars to fund abortions.

     I think Warner’s office either doesn’t understand my concern, or else they are trying to dodge the issue. The real issue is will Catholics and others opposed to “FDA-approved forms of contraception” have to pay for these in their employee health care plans, and thus violate their consciences? Warner’s statement above says, “nothing in this new guideline changes the existing conscience laws that give service providers the right to refuse to perform certain procedures.” But this is not what the concern is about! The concern being raised is not performing but paying for those procedures. This new law will require those opposed to these practices to PAY for them!
     And, apparently, the Obama administration, and I’m guessing most of the Democrats in Congress, have no intention of allowing employers the freedom to follow their consciences.

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