06 August 2011

NCBC Commentary on HHS Birth Control Requirements

Pro-lifers of both political parties criticized the Bush Administration for failing to be "truly pro-life". For many it was an excuse to vote for Barack Obama. Whatever the legitimate complaints of Pres. Bush not advancing the pro-life cause there can no longer be any denying that we are so much worse off with President Obama. The latest act being that of the "catholic" Kathleen Sibelius and the Dept. of Health and Human Services requiring free birth control. Don't expect any outrage over this from the National Catholic Distorter crowd who are always criticizing the Vatican or our Bishops for "violating their freedom of conscience." In the world of the Left buzzwords like freedom of conscience, dialogue, openess, only apply to their rights and not anyone elses.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center has a new commentary over the HHS disregard of freedom of conscience.
Pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented, nor is the embryo an enemy who once conceived has no right of access to the nurturing womb of his or her mother. Not only do these mandates apply to all group health plans and health insurance issuers in the group and individual markets; they also apply to self-insured group health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). There are few exemptions, and those pertain to group health plans which were in effect before the Health Care Reform was enacted, and those offered by employers who are deemed by HHS to qualify as a “religious employer.” The definition of a “religious employer,” however, is so narrow that its applicability negates most of the religious employers in this country. To be exempt from these new mandates an employer would have to hire and serve primarily those of one’s own faith and have the inculcation of religious values as its purpose. (Although, it does appear that, after the fact, HHS is willing to accept comment on this definition). The regulations state that this definition is consistent with most state laws in which exemptions for contraceptive coverage are allowed. The actual fact, however, is that there are only seven states with such provisions while a number of states have far more robust conscience protections. It should be noted that the Catholic Church is the largest provider of non-governmental health, education, and social services in this country. Not only are individual employers who have a moral, ethical or conscience objection to paying for contraceptives for college students—a group specially referenced as needing these “preventive health services” before going back to college—not exempt, but also the majority of faith-based ministries in the United States who are committed to serving all persons and not just those of their own faith.

These regulations reflect an utter disregard for the foundational principles of the government promulgating them, i.e., that conscience is sacrosanct. We are left to ask, “What has happened to this great country?” “When did we lose the respect for conscience which inspired the very founding of our country?” As Thomas Jefferson stated: “[O]ur rules can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God.” [Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President. Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), Query 17, p. 159, ed. William Peden (1954).]

Respectful comments over this policy can be sent before September 30, 2011 to:

It is critical that the voices of all persons of conscience be heard, noting in particular that pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented and that contraception should not be a mandated “preventive health service.” Respect for conscience is foundational to a just society. At a minimum a robust conscience protection should be granted, not only for all religious employers, but also for all employers, insurers, and policy issuers with moral, ethical, or religious objections. As it is, the limitations contained in the regulations for religious employers make the exemption virtually meaningless.

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