Thursday, February 23, 2012

Commentaries on Obama contraception mandate

Editor's note: On Feb. 10, President Obama made an announcement regarding the technical implementation of his administration's controversial policy of mandating contraception coverage nationwide with very limited conscience objection exceptions. Following are reactions to that announcement and policy.

Charles KrauthammerView #1: Excerpted from Washington Post commentary by Charles Krauthammer, Overreach: Obamacare vs. the Constitution, published February 16, 2012: President Obama’s birth control “accommodation” was as politically successful as it was morally meaningless. It was nothing but an accounting trick that still forces Catholic (and other religious) institutions to provide medical insurance that guarantees free birth control, tubal ligation and morning-after abortifacients — all of which violate church doctrine on the sanctity of life.

The trick is that these birth control/abortion services will supposedly be provided independently and free of charge by the religious institution’s insurance company. But this changes none of the moral calculus. Holy Cross Hospital, for example, is still required by law to engage an insurance company that is required by law to provide these doctrinally proscribed services to all Holy Cross employees.

Consider the constitutional wreckage left by Obamacare:

The assault on the free exercise of religion. Only churches themselves are left alone. Beyond the churchyard gate, religious autonomy disappears. Every other religious institution must bow to the state because, by this administration’s regulatory definition, church schools, hospitals and charities are not “religious” and thus have no right to the free exercise of religion — no protection from being forced into doctrinal violations commanded by the state.

The assault on individual autonomy. Every citizen without insurance is ordered to buy it, again under penalty of law. This so-called individual mandate is now before the Supreme Court — because never before has the already hypertrophied Commerce Clause been used to compel a citizen to enter into a private contract with a private company by mere fact of his existence.

This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy.
Kirsten PowersView #2: Excerpted from Health-Care Critics Unmoved by Obama’s Contraception

Compromise, commentary by Kirsten Powers published in The Daily Beast, February 11, 2012: Some people won’t take yes for an answer. Obama tossed his original mandate; Catholic institutions will now not be required to purchase health insurance at odds with their religious faith, nor will they be required to alert employees as to where to find them. Instead, when women ask their doctor for contraception, their health insurance companies will be required to cover it for free.

The National Right to Life Committee called Obama’s announcement a “scam.” Sen. Roy Blunt called it an “accounting gimmick.” Republican Study Committee chairman Jim Jordan called it a “fig leaf” that “still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion.”

Dr. David Stevens, the CEO of the Christian Medical Association, told me, “This is, at best, a smokescreen. There is still going to be legislation coming out of Congress [to override this rule] because this is the most fundamental of our constitutional rights, the free exercise of religion. There should be a religious exemption for any American who is opposed to this.”

If you accept the argument that the government can’t make an individual pay for policies he or she finds morally repugnant, then that would mean I shouldn’t have to pay taxes if I am living in a state that executes people, since I find the death penalty morally repugnant. (The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty too.)

It is old anti-Obama-health-care talking points about government mandates dressed up as a religious-freedom issue. The White House made a serious effort to address real concerns about religious liberty. People of good faith should be satisfied.

Dr. David StevensView #3: Excerpted from the testimony of CMDA CEO Dr. David Stevens before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health:
  1. The potential “religious exemption” in the contraception mandate--exempting only a nano-sector of “religious employers” from the guidelines--is meaningless to conscientiously objecting healthcare professionals, insurers and patients.
  2. The contraception mandate can potentially trigger a decrease in access to healthcare by patients in medically underserved regions and populations.
  3. The contraception mandate further contributes to an increasingly hostile environment in which medical students, residents and graduate physicians face discrimination, job loss and ostracism for holding pro-life views on abortion, controversial contraceptives and other ethical issues.
  4. The contraception mandate creates a climate of coercion that can prompt pro-life healthcare professionals to limit the scope of their medical practice and can discourage pro-life medical students and residents from choosing careers in Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology and other specialties likely to involve conflicts of conscience.
  5. The contraception mandate can potentially cause a decrease in the provision of health insurance for employees of pro-life healthcare employers who want to avoid conflicts of conscience regarding the subsidy and implied endorsement of controversial contraceptives.
The contraceptive mandate rule sweepingly tramples conscience rights, which have provided a foundation for the ethical and professional practice of medicine. The administration should rescind this mandate entirely.

Jonathan ImbodyView #4: CMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: "In announcing his apparent intention (the subsequent written rule issued by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services [HHS] actually did not implement his promised changes) on his contraception coercion policy, the President contended, 'Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives. Ninety-nine percent.'

"First, that figure strains credibility (for an exposé, see "Fudging the figures on contraception). Any stats from the Guttmacher Institute--founded by Planned Parenthood to serve as the research arm of the abortion lobby--should be viewed askance.

"But if the 99 percent figure were true, where's the huge problem of access to contraception that he says justifies the government's draconian actions?

"If President Obama is intent on government-mandated healthcare, instead of mandating relatively inexpensive pills that don't treat a disease and 99 percent of patients already access, wouldn't it make more sense to mandate the provision of lifesaving medicines that patients can't afford or obtain?

"In his speech at Notre Dame, President Obama promised a 'sensible' respect for conscience, but in practice he and his administration have demonstrated a pattern of contempt for conscience. The President has:
  1. gutted the only federal regulation protecting the exercise of conscience in healthcare;
  2. denied of federal grant funds for aiding human trafficking victims because a faith-based organization refused to participate in abortion;
  3. lobbied the Supreme Court to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights; and
  4. issued a coercive contraceptive mandate that imposes the government's abortion ideology on every American.
Every healthcare professional, regardless of political persuasion, should be protesting these assaults on our freedoms and contacting legislators to enact conscience-protecting legislation such as the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, introduced in the House by Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb. 1st) and in the Senate by Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)."

Resources Freedom2Care - statements and updates on contraception mandate
CMDA testimony on contraception mandate
Questions for the record follow up for CMDA testimony on contraception mandate
Right of Conscience PowerPoint **NEW**

Urge your legislators to support conscience-protecting bills by using the easy forms at the links below:
  1. S. 1467 cosponsorship - contact your senators re: Respect for Rights of Conscience Act
  2. H.R. 1179 cosponsors: Contact your Rep. re: Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

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Breaking News
Breaking News: As this edition goes to print, good news comes that a federal court in Tacoma, Washington, has struck down a Washington law that requires pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill even when doing so would violate their religious beliefs. The court held that the law violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. CMDA had participated in the case in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief written by the Christian Legal Society. Read Court opinion, news: Court says pharmacists can’t be forced to dispense morning-after pill and analysis: Court Strikes Down Law, , Important Victory for Religious Liberty in Washington State.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Komen reverses decision

Excerpt from "Susan G. Komen reverses Planned Parenthood decision: Too little, too late?," Washington Post, by Sarah Kliff and Lena H. Sun. February 3, 2012--The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation announced Friday that it would revise a new policy that barred the organization from funding Planned Parenthood, a move that had thrust the breast cancer foundation into a national controversy. Komen apologized “to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.” The foundation said that Planned Parenthood would now be eligible to apply for grants. It did not, however, address other reasons Komen has cited for why it might choose not to approve such grants. “Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation,” a Friday statement said. “We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.”

Executives of the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave a new explanation Thursday of their decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, but their contradictory statements failed to quell a rising controversy that led several of the organization’s affiliates to openly rebel. Komen had said the decision was the result of newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations under investigation — affecting Planned Parenthood because of an inquiry by a Republican congressman. On Thursday, Komen President Elizabeth Thompson told reporters that the funding decision was unrelated to the investigation into whether Planned Parenthood was illegally using federal funds to pay for abortions. Komen founder Nancy Brinker said the organization wants to support groups that directly provide breast health services, such as mammograms. She noted that Planned Parenthood was providing only mammogram referrals.

On Friday morning, the Susan B. Komen Foundation backed down from its decision to pull grants from Planned Parenthood. While the foundation gave itself room to reject future grant applications from Planned Parenthood, the decision is a clear sign that outrage from pro-choice supporters left Komen spooked.

Gene Rudd, MDCMDA Senior Vice President Gene Rudd, MD: "I remember reading details of some of the Civil War battles. Each side would take ground and then attempt to defend its turf. Sometimes the ground was strategic; other times it was defended to deny the enemy any success. The skirmishes were fierce and deadly.

"Similarly, the brouhaha surrounding the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s announcement to provide no further funding for Planned Parenthood is one of those skirmishes fought over ground that is not strategic, but is being defended anyway. While an amount of more than a half-million dollars is sizable for you and me, it is a drop in the bucket to the abortion giant. This issue is not about money; it is about defending turf in a cultural war.
"Planned Parenthood claims that Susan G. Komen yielded to conservative pressure. The reaction was fierce. Concern over breast cancer is a pawn in the debate. While Planned Parenthood plays this sympathy card, the real issue is protection of the abortion industry. It is questionable how much benefit Planned Parenthood brings to breast cancer prevention. Other organizations provide more worthwhile breast cancer screening. While Komen should have the right to decide to how to distribute its funds where the best results may be found, Planned Parenthood disagrees. Honoring the rights and choices of others is not the turf they defend.

"As I write this, it appears that Komen has back-pedaled on its decision. Sadly, Planned Parenthood may be able to hold this ground."

Scientific Statement of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations on The Association of Abortion and Breast Cancer
Abortion: Choice v. Life - David Stevens, MD, MA (PPT) (Member Resource)

Look for the April 2011 CDD which will include an interview with Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association

Sex-Education Controversy

Excerpt from "New National Sex-Education Standards Stir Controversy," Crosswalk, by Michael Foust. January 18, 2012--Four leading education organizations have released national sex-ed standards that encourage fifth-graders to be taught about sexual orientation and eighth-graders to learn about gender identity and the morning-after pill, but many say the recommendations infringe on parental rights. The non-binding standards by the National Education Association and three other groups are billed as the "first-ever national standards" for sex-ed in schools, and they provide detailed suggestions for what students should learn by the second, fifth, eighth and 12th grades. From a social conservative's standpoint, nearly every page of the recommendations has something controversial.

By the second grade, students are to learn the "proper names for body parts, including male and female anatomy." By the fifth grade, they should learn that sexual orientation is the "romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender." By the end of the eighth grade, students should be able to "differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation" and learn about the morning-after pill, which can cause abortions. They also should know how to use a condom, the standards say. Gender identity is a term that refers to men and women who, in essence, believe they were born the wrong sex. Both gender identity and gender expression encompass cross-dressers and transgendereds.

Although the recommendations are non-binding, the NEA and the other groups hope they catch on with schools. Others, though, are hoping schools simply ignore them. Bob Stith, the National Strategist for Gender Issues at Southern Baptist Convention said, "The reality is that it has the potential to create serious conflicts between parents and children. If children are taught values that are in direct opposition to the biblical values of their parents, those parents would be put in an adversarial position with their own children. This is just simply not a healthy approach."

Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) described the standards as full of "special-interest agendas." "When we set standards, we should communicate the ideal, the best message to achieve optimal health," Huber said. "When a set of guidelines fails to provide any meaningful emphasis on optimal health but instead gives priority to 'condom negotiation' skills, we have not set standards; we have lowered them and put our children at increased risk."

Rosemary SteinCMDA Member and Board Certified Pediatrician Rosemary Stein, MD: "Several weeks ago a document was released that outlines what our children need to have mastered in the area of sexuality at different grade levels. It has taken nearly two years, much taxpayer money and many 'experts' in the area of sexuality and education to author this compendium. The report appears to have many readers in either a state of elation or an uproar about its conclusions and guidelines.

"This vast group of reviewers suggest that there needs to be a universal sexuality curriculum since American schools currently do not have one. It suggests that 'too little time is devoted' to teaching our children about sex issues in our schools. Therefore, it must be a good idea for our failing schools to broaden their curriculum to further instruct our children about sex at an earlier age.

"The report cites a 2004 NPR poll that concludes most parents think it is important for sex to be taught in schools, and that birth control and pregnancy prevention are appropriate topics for schools to teach. This new 'policy via polling' provides a pretense to dictate to all Americans what our kids need to know about sex.

"The new guidelines state that second graders should master the names of their private areas, fifth graders should understand and respect sexual orientation and eighth graders need to be proficient on using a condom correctly. Schools are recommended to devote more than 17.2 hours per year on this new education.

"Barely 70 percent of our children achieve passing scores in the basic areas of math and reading. We spend two to three times more per student in public versus private schools - on average $9,000 per pupil. Too many of our public schools are failing to educate our children well in the basics. It comes down to priorities. Should we teach our 13-year-olds how to put on a condom, or should we teach them how to read proficiently? Sex education is best left in the hands of the parents. Schools should go back to focusing on the three Rs. Before political agendas infiltrated our schools, they did a credible job of teaching our children.

"Let's demand that our school systems improve their instruction on how our children read, write and do math. As in many other parts of the government, the schools have proven to be failures in administering to our greatest assets - our children. It would be folly to hand over our children's sexual education to those who have such a poor track record.

"This is not only a Christian issue, or a conservative issue; it is a parenting issue. Until we stand up for what is of grave importance to us, we will continue to lose the battle. When these guidelines come to our local schools, let us tell the school board what we think about them. This is not an area where we can afford to be shy. The future of American education is counting on us!"

Editor's Note: CMA has signed on to the National Abstinence Education Association letter below, and we urge to sign on as well.

Add your voice to the NAEA letter that is asking that federal sex education policy place a strong emphasis on sexual risk avoidance abstinence education.