Will Obama Accommodate Religious Employers?

Amid news regarding possible plan, Catholic leaders continue to speak out about religious freedom.

There have been rumors of a compromise on the Health and Human Service contraception mandate, including Feb. 10 news from The Associated Press, that stated, “President Barack Obama will announce a plan to accommodate religious employers outraged by a rule that would require them to cover birth control for women free of charge, according to a person familiar with the decision.” (Register story to come.)

Opposition to the rule continues.

President Barack Obama’s decision to require religious employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization is an “unconscionable” violation of religious freedom, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said Feb. 9.

“President Obama is using the coercive power of the state to force people of faith and people of conscience to violate a fundamental conviction or suffer severe penalty,” Rep. Smith said Feb. 9.

“By coercing all health insurers, including faith-based institutions to pay for all means of preventive programs, including subsidizing abortifacients like ‘ella’ and Plan B, President Obama demonstrates a reckless disregard for conscience rights,” he stated.

“Everyone must comply, regardless of moral convictions or religious tenets, simply because Obama says so.”

EWTN filed a lawsuit against the rule on Feb. 9. Network president and CEO Michael Warsaw said the rule forces EWTN to use donations to pay for objectionable coverage and to tell employees how to obtain the drugs or procedures.

Failure to provide the mandated insurance policies means the network could face fines of over $600,000 annually. The HHS department will assess a fine of $2,000 per employee on an annual basis.

Smith charged that President Obama’s attitude on conscience fits “a dangerous emerging pattern.”

He cited the withdrawal of a federal grant to a U.S. bishops’ conference program that helps victims of human trafficking because the conference would not refer for abortions.

“If Obama’s attack on conscience rights isn’t reversed, faith-based employers will be discriminated against and fined, and employees who today benefit from health-insurance plans provided by their faith-based employer will be dumped into government health exchanges,” he said.

The congressman said that Republican House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has made religious freedom protection a “high priority.” Boehner announced on Feb. 8 that fellow congressman Fred Upton, R-Mich., was preparing legislation to repeal the mandate.

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport,Conn., told EWTN News in a Feb. 8 statement that no one from the Obama administration has approached the U.S. bishops’ conference for discussion.

Bishop Lori, chair of the bishops’ committee for religious liberty, said “the only acceptable solution” is for the administration to rescind “completely” the mandate to cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. Bishops continue to be vocal on this issue.

The president of the Catholic Medical Association has also attacked the principles behind Health and Human Services’ federal contraception mandate in a Feb. 6 statement.

“This ‘preventive services’ rule constitutes bad logic, in defining pregnancy as a disease to be prevented; bad medicine, in holding that providing oral contraceptives and sterilization will enhance women’s health; and bad public policy, in thinking that this strategy will prevent unplanned pregnancies,” wrote Dr. Maricela Moffitt.

The Catholic Medical Association president, who is also a board member of the Catholic Physicians’ Guild of Phoenix and a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said the Obama administration has violated religious freedom for the sake of an impractical and immoral policy.

“The decision to impose this requirement even on institutions which have an ethical objection to providing contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients is an unprecedented attack on the Catholic Church and on religious freedom more generally,” Moffit said in her statement, released by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.

“Never in our history has the federal government demanded that private insurance plans include benefits that violate an institution’s conscience.”

Moffit said this supposed mandate accommodation was an “attempt to compel speech and make Catholic institutions complicit in the referral process,” in violation of the First Amendment’s “free speech” clause.

The Catholic Medical Association is urging its members to take several steps immediately. These include contacting their federal representatives in Congress to urge support for the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” that would amend federal health-care reform to protect institutions’ rights.

Moffit stressed faithful physicians’ duty to pray, do penance, and support the U.S. Catholic bishops in their stand against the Obama administration’s move.

Catholic Medical Association members, she warned, “should realize that this mandate is only a first step.”

“Now that these preventive services have been mandated, it will not take long for the federal government to declare that all physicians and health-care providers must perform or refer for them.”

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told a pro-life gathering in the nation’s capital why he believes abortion is “bad for America, bad for our society and bad for our people” last week. He has introduced a bill to reverse the mandate.

“The issue of life is not a political issue, nor is it a policy issue,” Rubio said. “It’s a definitional issue.”

“It is a basic, core issue that every society needs to answer, and the answer that it gives on that issue ends up defining which kind of society you have.”

Rubio delivered the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List’s annual Campaign for Life Gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Feb. 1.

The right to life is foundational, he explained, because “without it, none of the other rights matter.”

He described the debate between Americans who identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice” as a conflict between two rights: a woman’s right to choose and a child’s right to live.

The clash of these two rights poses a “fundamental question for our society,” he explained.

Although “a woman should have a right to choose the kinds of things that happen to her body,” he said, that right “is not unlimited” and ends when it begins to interfere with another human being’s right to life.

Rubio explained that abortion advocates wield significant political power because “in this battle between the right to choose and the right to live, the only ones who can vote are the ones with the right to choose.”

“You are the voice of children that cannot speak for themselves,” he said. “You vote for them when you vote.”

The Florida senator said he believes that future generations of Americans will look back and “condemn” this era of history, just as Americans today view those who perpetrated “atrocities of the past” as “barbarians.”

Although the pressure of society can make the battle for life difficult, the fight is one worth continuing, he insisted.

His Catholic faith, Rubio stated, teaches him that life is fleeting and he will one day be called upon to render an account of his life, in which popularity, wealth and political success will not matter.

Rubio said he is heartened by recent polls that show an increasing number of people are realizing that “there is no compelling argument for why a woman’s right to choose trumps a child’s right to live.”

“America is great because God has blessed America,” he said, “and America has always honored those blessings by being an example to the world.”

However, “at the end of the day, our nation can never truly become what it fully was intended to be unless it deals with this issue squarely.”

“America cannot truly fulfill its destiny unless this issue is resolved,” Rubio said. “It’s that important.”