Bishops want protection of conscience rights in health care
Minnesota’s Catholic bishops urged U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a recent letter to rescind the “preventative services mandate” rule imposed by the HHS under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The rule would force private insurance plans to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs like the recently FDA-approved drug “Ella.” They requested HHS instead broaden the protection of conscience in the implementation of the PPACA, according to the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
Although the bishops noted their support for providing access to services that truly prevent disease or disability for women, such as pap smears and mammograms, they are concerned the rule will treat fertility and pregnancy as abnormal states that are in need of prevention and will force unprecedented restrictions on employers to act in violation of their informed conscience.
“Even if there are disagreements about abortion and birth control as public policy, the long-standing legislative tradition in the U.S. has protected the freedom of conscience and religious beliefs,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the MCC, which represents the bishops of Minnesota on matters of public policy. “Requiring Catholic individuals and institutions to pay for and provide abortion drugs and contraceptives contrary to Catholic teaching in the name of ‘reproductive autonomy’ is an unprecedented attack on the cherished liberties of religious and associational freedom.”
The bishops noted that the new rule is a reversal of the long tradition in the United States of conscience protections for faith-based providers. Additionally, they are disheartened by the “potential impact of the rule on the vulnerable populations who have been served well and generously by Catholic providers for many decades in our country.”
“Not only Catholics, but millions of people of different faiths and those outside the religious community are served through Catholic-affiliated social service programs and schools throughout the United States. The rule will effectively insulate churches and religious organizations from the communities they serve,” Adkins said. “It will seriously affect the educational and social service network of the Catholic Church by preventing us from helping all of our brothers and sisters of other faiths and beliefs, while staying true to ours.”
The bishops also sent letters to the Minnesota congressional delegation asking them to sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179), which would insure the PPACA would not be used to force private health plans to provide services that are morally unacceptable.
Additionally, they asked Catholics in Minnesota to voice their concern about the rule by sending a letter about the mandate to HHS and the Minnesota congressional delegation no later than Sept. 30.