September 17, 2011

Contraception Mandate is Latest Attack on Conscience Rights

Once again, our rights are being eroded.  I wrote back in February about how the current administration, through executive fiat via the Department of Health and Human Services, is chipping away at the conscience rights of providers.  This past August, HHS announced the new “contraception mandate” that would require all insurance plans to cover contraception (including the morning after pills) and sterilization as part of ‘preventive services.’    There is only a very narrow religious exemption for this mandate, and it would not apply to a majority of organizations.  Moreover, there is no exemption for individuals who have moral objection in this regard.  A majority of Catholic entities sponsoring health plans for employees and the like would be forced to cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization.   For this reason, the Bishops of the United States have been very vocal in their opposition to this mandate, going so far as to put together a detailed report and sending it to HHS and Kathleen Sebelius.
This regulation is an assault on religious freedom in the United States.  This another step taken by the current government to marginalize the freedoms and beliefs of Catholics.  The Catholic Church is the last religious voice in the United States that still speaks out against contraception and sterilization.  And it has been in recent years that our voice has grown stronger as the faithful are re-catechized in this area of Church teaching.   And yet, we are seeing more and more assaults on our beliefs. 
One might try to argue that this does not really affect the individual, since it is geared towards insurance plans.  But in reality, this is another step to completely eradicating conscience rights of health care providers.  If the federal government can successfully argue that this regulation does not violate the First Amendment and subsequent Federal protections (the Weldon Amendment, etc), then the next step is to force individual physicians to provider contraception and perform sterilizations, even if it goes against their conscience.  We are careening down the slippery slope of moral relativism.  We are losing the foundation of our religious freedom in this country.  These freedoms are no longer being based upon a concept of rights that supersedes the power of the Federal government, but rather on what the majority (or a vocal minority) want us to do and believe.  We are now being told that we cannot ‘impose our religion’ on others by NOT doing something.  For right now, we are able to continue to do what we feel is right (though it is very difficult most of the time) but under the current trajectory of this government’s policies towards religious freedom in healthcare, it is only a matter of time before we will be forced to choose between our Faith and our profession.
The time to act is now!  The comment period on the Contraception Mandate closes September 30th.  We have an obligation to stand up for our freedoms, particularly the freedom to practice our Faith.  We must call our congressmen and Senators and tell them that we do not want this mandate, because it is a violation of religious freedom in this country.  So please, take the time to send the message that we do not want this! 
Add your voice
HHS is taking public comments on the contraceptive mandate until September 30. To join the bishops in public opposition to this policy, please submit your own comments to HHS.
To contact your U.S. representative to ask that he/she co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, visit:  https://www.capwiz.com/f2c/issues/alert/?alertid=52689501
To contact your senators to ask that they co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, visit:  https://www.capwiz.com/f2c/issues/alert/?alertid=53227616

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