Last August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a list of “preventive services for women” to be mandated in almost all private health plans under the new health care law. This will include sterilization, all FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity.” HHS’s rule allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” Religious organizations providing education, health care and charitable services to all in need cannot qualify for the exemption. On February 10, despite a storm of protest, President Obama adopted this policy as a final rule “without change” (Federal Register, 2/15/12, 8725). Religious organizations that cannot qualify for the exemption will have an extra year to comply; but before the end of that period, an additional rule will be issued to make sure that their employees receive the mandated coverage despite the employer’s objection.
In a March 21 notice proposing additional rulemaking, the Administration suggests various ways the new mandate can be applied to religious organizations. The fundamental legal and moral concerns about government intrusion into religious ministries are not addressed. Whatever funding and administrative mechanisms are ultimately chosen, many deeply religious institutions that serve the common good will be forbidden to provide their own employees or students with health coverage consistent with their values. The time for public comments concluded June 19. For the comments to HHS by the U.S. bishops, see: nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/USCCB-ANPRM5.15.12.pdf.
For a general helpful fact sheet, “Twelve Things Everyone Should Know About the ‘Contraceptive Mandate,’” see: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Twelve-Things-Everyone-Should-Know-About-the-Contraceptive-Mandate.pdf.
The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) will ensure that those who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.” On March 1, the Senate voted, 51-yes, 48-no, to table this bill when it was presented as Senate Amendment 1520 to the Transportation Authorization Bill. As Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the amendment’s sponsor, stated: “This fight is not over.” Continue to urge your Representatives and Senators to support and pass this bill.
For more information on religious liberty and conscience rights, see: www.usccb.org/conscience.
ACTION: Contact your U.S. Representative and two Senators by e-mail, phone, or FAX letter:
- Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
- To send an e-mail through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center Click Here.
- Additional contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at: www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
MESSAGE: “Please support and work for passage of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). This measure will ensure that the religious liberty and conscience rights of all participants in our nation’s health care system are respected. The Administration’s decision to mandate coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an abortion, makes passage of this bill especially urgent.”
WHEN: Please act today! Thanks!