Sunday, January 29, 2012
The Catholic Defender: HHS, Obama's New Gestapo
I recently wrote "Obama's War on Catholicism" that I share my concern for the future of our Country.
Today, the Catholics issued a letter to be read in all our Parish's informing the public of the HHS ruling. This will affect each and everyone of us.
What it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
Our Shephards are calling for us to stand up and be counted.
Pray for all our Priests who will have to lead the fight. Pray for the whole people of God that religious libverty will be fully maintained. The following is a response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
BackGround: THE NEW FEDERAL MANDATE FOR CONTRACEPTION/STERILIZATION COVERAGE
On August 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an 'interim final rule' to require virtually all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, female sterilization procedures, and related 'patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.' These are listed among 'preventive services for women' that all health plans will have to include without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- even if the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or the woman herself object to such coverage. There have been many protests, including formal comments filed with the HHS by many organizations and a petition signed by over 430 Catholic leaders (see www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/). However, on January 20, 2012, HHC decided not to make any significant change in its rule. Important points:
- The mandate treats a healthy pregnancy as a disease in need of 'prevention,' like breast cancer or AIDS (which other 'preventative services' on HHS's list do legitimately seek to prevent). In reality, some of the mandated contraceptives are associated with an increased risk of AIDS, blood clots leading to stroke, and other ailments. Inclusion of these drugs places HHS's efforts to prevent disease at war with itself.
- The claim that greater access to contraceptives will reduce abortions is not supported by the facts (http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/contraception/contraception-fact-sheet-3-17-11.pdf). The contraceptive mandate's strongest advocates are groups that perform and promote abortion, who hope a coverage mandate for 'prevention' will encourage government and others to see abortion as a 'cure'.
- Everyone deserves access to basic life-affirming health care, and health care reform is supposed to serve that goal. The effect of this mandate is just the opposite, as it pressures organizations to drop their health coverage for emplyees and others altogether if they have a moral or religious objection to these particular item.
- By requiring coverage for all drugs approved for contraception and 'emergency contraception' by the FDA, the mandate includes drugs that can interfere with implantation in the womb and therefore destroy the early human embryo.
- One such drug already approved, 'Ella' (ulipristal), is similar to the abortion drug RU-486 in its formula and its ability to cause an abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy. The new health care reform law forbids HHS to mandate coverage of abortion, but it is doing so here.
- The rule has an incredible narrow religious exemption for 'religious employers' (not insurers, schools with student health plans, or families purchasing insurance). Even religious employers are exempt only if their purpose is to inculcate religious doctrine, they hire and serve mainly people of their own faith, and they qualify as a church or religious order in a narrow part of the tax code. Most religious institutions providing health, educational or charitable services to others have no protection. Jesus himself would not qualify as 'religious enough,' since he healed the needy regardless of religious affiliation and taught followers to do the same (see the parable of the Good Samaritan).
- HHC says this exemption is like those enacted by most states that have a contraceptive coverage mandate, but that is false. None of the state mandates covers as wide an array of health plans, and the great majority have broader protection for religious freedom.
- Many federal laws exempt individuals and institutions from having to take part in health services against their moral or religious convictions; some of these laws specifically protect from forced involvement in contraception or sterilization (http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/crmay08.pdf). HHS is violating this long federal tradition, and needs to return to it. Congress should also appreve the 'Respect for Rights of Conscience Act' (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that this happens.
How important is the right of conscience in American tradition?
It has always been a paramount importance: 'No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against enterprises of the civil authority' (Thomas Jefferson, 1809). In the past, has the federal government respected conscientious objections to procedures such as sterilization that may violate religious beliefs or moral convictions? Yes. For example, a law in effect since 1973 says that no individual is required to take part in 'any part of a health service program or research activity funded in whole or in part under a program administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services' if it is 'contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions' (42 USC 300a-7 (d). Even the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which requires most of its health plans to cover contraception, exempts religiously affiliated plans and protects the conscience rights of health professionals in the other plans. Currently no federal law requires anyone to purchase, sell, sponsor, or be covered by a private health plan that violates his or her consscience.
By Issuing a mandate for coverage of sterization and contraceptives (including long-lasting injections and implants, and 'morning-after pills' that may cause an early abortion) in virtually all private health plans. In August 2011 HHS included these procedures in a list of 'preventive services for women' to be required in health plans issued on or after August 1, 2012. On January 20,2012, HHS reaffirmed its mandate while deferring enforcement against some religious employers until August 2013.
Is it appropriate to require coverage of these as 'preventive services'?
No. The other services on HHS's list seek to prevent serious disease - breast cancer, lung cancer, AIDS. Pregnancy is not a disease. The Institute of Medicine committee that compiled the 'preventive services' list for HHS said in its report that unintended pregnancy is a 'condition for which safe and effective prevention and treatment' need to be more widely available - setting the stage for mandated coverage of abortion as the 'treatment' when prevention fails. Note that women who suffer from infertility, which really is an illness, were ignored in this mandate.
Yes, an incredibly narrow 'religious employer' exemption that fails to protect many, perhaps most, religious employers. To be eligible an organization must meet four strict criteria, including the requirement that it both hire and serve primarily people of its own faith. Catholic schools and hospitals would have to eject their non-Catholic employees, students and patients, or purchase health coverage that violates their moral and religious teaching. Jesus and his apostles would not have been 'religious enough' for the exemption, since they healed and served people of different faiths. The exemption provides no protection at all to sponsors and providers of health plans for the general public, to pr0-life people who own business, or to individuals with a moral or religious objection to these procedures.
Isn't this an aspect of the Administration's drive for broader access to health care for all?
Whether or not it was intended that way, it has the opposite effect. People will not be free to keep the coverage they have now that respects their convictions. Organizations with many employees will have to violate their consciences or stop offering health benefits altogether. And resources needed to provide basic health care to the uninsured will be used instead to facilitate IUDs and Depo-Provera for those who already had ample coverage. This is a diversion away from universal health care.
That claim is false for two reasons. First, the coverage will be mandated, not a matter of free choice for any woman. Second, insurance companies will not be able to charge a co-pay or deductible for the coverage, so they will simply add the cost to the standard premium everyone has to pay - and among those being required to pay will be people who oppse it on conscience grounds. That is not victory for freedom.
By objecting to this coverage, is the Catholic Church discriminating against women?
Not at all. The Church's teaching against early abortion is based on respect for all human life, male and female. It's teaching against contraception and sterilization is based on respect for the power to help generate a new human life, a power held by both men and women - so health plans in accord with Catholic teaching do not cover male or female sterilization. It is the HHS mandate that shows disregard for women, by forcing them to purchase this coverage whether they want it or not.
No, they simply decline to provide active support for procedures that violate their own consciences. If an employee disagrees, he or she can simply purchase that coverage or those procedures elsewhere.
What solution to this dispute would be acceptable?
Ideally, HHS can leave the law the way it has always been, so those who provide, sponsor and purchase health coverage can make their own decisions about whether to include these procedures without the federal government imposing one answer on everyone. If HHS refuses, it will be especially urgent for Congress to pass the 'Respect for Rights of Conscience Act' (HR 1179/S. 1467). to prevent health care reform act from being used to violate insurers' and purchasers' moral and religious beliefs.
This November will be the most important elections in our times. Pray the Rosary for the conversion of sinners, pray and fast for our nation as it is in great need for the Church to take a stand.
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