WASHINGTON (EWTN News/CNA) — The U.S. bishops “strongly oppose” a proposal to mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health-insurance plans nationwide. The mandate would undermine the good of women and children and the consciences of heath-care providers, one leading bishop said.
“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The health-care legislation passed in 2010 directed the Obama administration to create a list of preventive services for women that all new health-care plans must cover without deductibles or co-payments. In response, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine drafted non-binding guidelines in a year-long review conducted at the request of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The committee recommended “the full range” of federally approved contraceptives and sterilization procedures.
Cardinal DiNardo noted that the Institute of Medicine committee said it would have good reason to recommend mandatory coverage for surgical abortions, if such a mandate were not prevented by law.
“I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children,” he said in a July 19 statement.
Planned Parenthood, the cardinal said, is “celebrating” the report, and if the HHS implements its recommendations it will violate the “deeply held moral and religious convictions of many.”
For its part, the Institute of Medicine “missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate,” he added.
Catholic teaching regards direct sterilization procedures and artificial contraceptive use as sinful.
Americans United for Life also opposed the proposal, saying it would fund the abortion-inducing drug Ella.
Anna Franzonello, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, on July 20 said that her organization had warned about the possibility of funding abortion and abortion-causing drugs through the health-care legislation’s mandate before its passage.
The pro-life group’s concerns are heightened by the Institute of Medicine’s invitation to abortion-advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood, to help form its recommendation. The group charged that Planned Parenthood stands to gain financially from the mandate.
Americans United for Life called on the Department of Health and Human Services to “respect the conscience rights of Americans” and honor the promise of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., that the mandate would be used to prevent diseases.
Cardinal DiNardo said the threat to consciences makes it “especially critical” for Congress to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would forbid federal requirements that make health plans require providers to provide items or services which violate religious beliefs or moral convictions.
Following President Barack Obama’s backing of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), an official with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference says Catholics and others cannot take the legislation for granted but should be prepared to defend it.
“We just can’t simply sit back. Every Catholic and every Catholic institution concerned about marriage and the family will need to be able to step forward and advocate for the Defense of Marriage Act as federal policy,” commented Dan Avila, a policy advisor to the U.S. bishops on marriage and family issues and a member of the
Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“We can’t just take DOMA for granted,” he told CNA on July 20. “Even if there’s no immediate prospect for this bill to race through Congress, the fact is that the pressure is building and the case is being made for the eventual demise of DOMA. All those concerned about the preservation of marriage simply need to pay attention, stay tuned, and be ready to respond.”
The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage for the purposes of federal law and protects states which do not recognize same-sex “marriage” from being forced to recognize unions contracted in states which do.
On July 19, White House press secretary Jay Carney announced that President Obama supports California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Respect for Marriage Act that would repeal DOMA. Carney said the proposal would “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples” the same rights as others, The Washington Post reports.
But Avila warned that a repeal would begin “a further and more intense erosion of public policy on marriage.”
“Marriage is the keystone of the common good. When you erase from a policy on marriage any reference to sexual difference, you will force the government to ignore and to be indifferent to the absence of either the man or the woman in the most fundamental relationship that we know of.”
Marriage between a man and a woman is a “first cell” of society that helps bridge “the most fundamental difference between man and woman, in a way that no other relationship can.”
The redefinition of marriage at the federal level would have “extraordinarily broad effects,” Avila warned.
“Attempts to redefine it through statute forces anyone who disagrees to take the position of being a threat to the public good,” he explained. “The whole premise of redefining marriage is that marriage as we define it now is a form of bigotry and prejudice. Therefore, anyone who disagrees with this redefinition will be treated as equal to racists, for example.”
This premise carries “great threats” to the Catholic Church and all like-minded organizations.
Avila cited various instances where recognition of same-sex unions has affected religious liberty.
“In New York right now, long-serving faithful public servants, who have the responsibility of issuing marriage licenses, are being told that they have to be fired if they refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples.”
Soon after the Massachusetts Supreme Court redefined marriage, he noted, Catholic Charities in Boston was required to make legal adoptions to same-sex couples and was forced out of the adoption business.
State tax-exempt status was revoked from a Methodist organization in New Jersey which indicated that they would not allow a same-sex couple to rent a beachfront pavilion for a civil-union ceremony. A bed and breakfast in Vermont is now being sued after it refused for religious reasons to allow its facilities to be used for a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.
In February the Justice Department stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against a federal lawsuit on the grounds it believes it is unconstitutional because it discriminates against homosexuals.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., praised President Obama’s support for the repeal, calling the Defense of Marriage Act “discriminatory and cruel.”
Avila contended that claims that the act is discriminatory are not decisive arguments, because at issue is a question of whose discrimination will be adopted.
“I would daresay that Congressman Nadler and others who are advocating the repeal of DOMA are not also advocating for the repeal of the requirement that be limited to people,” he said. Many who argue for same-sex “marriage” have taken positions against recognizing group “marriage,” even as polygamists have filed suit charging that polygamy bans are discriminatory.
“Having a mom and dad in the home is best for children,” Avila stated.
The Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 with “overwhelming” bipartisan support and was signed into law by a Democratic president, Avila noted, while 31 states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
“It still represents the will of the people in this country,” he said. “DOMA strongly affirms the consensus that marriage is between a man and a woman.”