By: Caitlin Bootsma, Office of Communications
When you read in the Washington Post that, “A provision in the law expanded preventive health-care benefits for women,” you could think that it is a positive development and simply skim to the next article.
If you look deeper, however, you’ll discover that recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandated that private health plans cover female surgical sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the FDA as contraceptives, including drugs which can attack a developing unborn child before and after implantation in the mother’s womb.
The same Washington Post article explains that Catholic hospitals are concerned that they will be required to provide birth control under this new legislation and will not be eligible for a conscience exemption. The Post quotes a representative from the National Women’s Law Center who says that, “all women do use contraception at some point in their lives” so essentially this mandate should not provide a problem.
The clear bias of the article may make it difficult to recognize the real problem.
First of all, claiming that all women will use contraceptives is a vast generalization.
Secondly, this mandate ignores that contraceptives, including ella (which can destroy a human life weeks after conception), are morally reprehensible to many people, not only Catholics.
In other words, this legislation – without adequate conscience exemptions – goes against one of the founding principles of our country: freedom of conscience, the very liberty that we pride ourselves on as Americans, that our country is founded upon, that we write patriotic songs about.
This roadblock to our pursuit of true liberty is expressed by Cardinal DiNardo: “Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families or their employees. To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”
It is easy to treat this as just one more news story. However, except for a very narrow religious exemption that primarily affects churches, this new mandate will not only affect Catholic hospital. It will also require others who provides health insurance to their employees, including Catholic universities and schools and social service agencies such as Catholic Charities, to provide health insurance that must now include free birth control.
So, what can we do?
- Keep the discussion alive. Too often, media or others can treat these debated issues as if they are done deals, that there is nothing else to be said, that everyone agrees. Let others know that this is a violation of your religious beliefs and, therefore, your right to liberty as an American.
- Pray for and support those health care workers or insurance providers who are fighting for conscience exemptions that will not force them to provide substances such as ella which can destroy human life.
- Let your voice be heard. Help ensure that a meaningful legislation on conscience exemption is enacted by Congress. Take a few minutes to write to your legislators about the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179). By writing, you tell your legislators how to best represent your view. The Virginia Catholic Conference offers the mechanism to do this on its website: http://capwiz.com/vacatholic/issues/alert/?alertid=51746501
The way I see it, liberty is not only a right, but also a responsibility. We have the opportunity to exercise our freedom of conscience and enable others to secure that right as well.