Thursday, April 25, 2013

CMA and others urge HHS to reconsider contraceptives mandate

Excerpted from "Commenting period ends for HHS mandate," National Catholic Reporter, April 22, 2013 - On April 8, the last day that the public could file comments with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the contraceptive coverage in its health insurance mandate, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was addressing students at the Harvard School of Public Health. She told them she had not anticipated how complicated it would be to implement the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature healthcare law.

The mandate requires employee health insurance policies to provide contraceptive coverage without co-pays or deductibles. Some of the fiercest battles have been with religious organizations that have objected to the mandate as a violation of their teachings against the use of contraceptives.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed its comment in March. The bishops still object to the narrow definition of "exempt" institutions, insisting, "The current proposal continues to define 'religious institution' in a way that, by the government's own admission, excludes (and therefore subjects to the mandate) a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious. Generally, the nonprofit religious organizations that fall on the 'non-exempt' side of this religious gerrymander include those organizations that contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services."

Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund, a group that focuses on religious liberty issues, told NCR that her organization remains skeptical of the current proposals.

"HHS has mandated that American employers include all FDA-approved contraceptives in their group health plans without cost-sharing," Arriaga stated in an email. "HHS' mandate covers contraceptives like ella and IUDs that work after conception to end newly-created human life, and HHS knew when it issued the mandate that many Americans -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- have serious moral objections to these drugs."

"The government is still trying to force many believers to pay for or facilitate access to abortion-causing drugs in ways their religion prohibits. What each organization's religion permits is not the government's call to make," Arriaga said.


Jonathan ImbodyCMA Vice President for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody: "As suggested by my colleague Kristina Arriaga of the Becket Fund, which along with Alliance Defending Freedom has been racking up key court victories regarding the HHS mandate, this battle reflects two distinct views of the role of American government and the primacy of religious freedom.

"Despite the President's own testimony that 99 percent of women already access contraceptives, he and his administration appear determined to leverage the full power of the federal government against the expressed interests of the faith community in a drive to ensure that every single woman of child bearing age in the country--from Beverly Hills to The Hamptons--receives contraceptives for free. Under the HHS mandate, every U.S. insurance company must pony up for costly pills, implants and sterilization procedures, regardless of the threat to the company's solvency.

"The government blithely asserts without proof that it will cost less in the long run to prevent babies than to deliver them. Such a policy not only clashes with the traditional American life-affirming ethos; it also may portend an economic crisis resulting from an imbalance of older versus younger citizens. Consider, for example, that preventing babies from being born would only exacerbate the looming Social Security crisis. Funding Obamacare itself hinges in large part on forcing younger, healthy individuals to pay for health insurance and in effect subsidize the cost of healthcare for the older population.

"As to religious freedom, the administration continues to contend--as it did in its failed attempt to win over a single member of the Supreme Court to its radical viewpoint in the Hosanna Tabor case--that governmental interests handily trump First Amendment religious liberty. It is true that on rare occasions courts have allowed a compelling government interest to override individual religious liberty, provided the government uses the least restrictive means to achieve its goals. Yet forcing millions of citizens to violate their consciences and participate in a practice proscribed by their faith--when the administration easily could pursue the far less restrictive alternative of the government itself providing contraceptives without infringing on anyone's religious liberty--hardly meets this criteria.”

Click HERE to urge your U.S. Rep. to support conscience rights bill HR 940

Arm yourself with arguments for religious liberty and against government coercion by reading CMA's and other groups' official comments sent to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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