As a result of continuing concerns about the HHS preventive service mandate, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and over 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholars have signed an open letter to the Obama administration entitled Standing Together for Religious Freedom. The letter calls on the Administration and Congress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom.
Nonetheless, Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, has announced that it considers the Obama administration’s revised contraceptive mandate acceptable. The president of Georgetown stated that the new regulation provides “the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable healthcare.” Similarly, the Catholic Health Care Association states that it is satisfied that its members will not have to “contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage.” The Association includes over 600 hospitals and 1400 other health facilities in every American state and in Washington, D.C. [NCR]
A federal court granted a preliminary injunction to Hobby Lobby. The business is operated by its owners in accordance with their Christian convictions. The Green family does not object to contraception, but rejects the IUD and morning-after pill because of concern about embryocidal effects. The court ruled that the injunction was warranted because of “substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.” [Becket Fund] In contrast, a federal appeals court has rejected the appeal of Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation against a lower court ruling that held they must comply with the regulation. In a 2- 1 decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a corporation cannot be said to share an owner’s religious convictions. [Lancasteronline]
The Catholic Health Association of the United States, which first responded favourably to a claim by the Obama administration that it would accommodate religious objectors, has now formally stated its opposition to the plans to force employers to provide health insurance for contraception, embryocidal drugs and devices and sterilization.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement is being released by Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive office of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):
The Catholic Health Association is both pleased and concerned by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) recent actions on preventive services for women.
We are delighted that health insurance coverage must include critical screening services without any cost-sharing. What to some may seem like small amounts as co-pays for mammograms, pap smears, etc., has proven to be an effective barrier to care for women who have low incomes.
Our hope is that eliminating this barrier will result in earlier diagnosis at a treatable stage of many diseases such as cancer and diabetes. We applaud this aspect of the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine and their affirmation by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
However, CHA is very concerned about the inadequacy of the conscience protections with respect to the coverage of contraception. As it stands, the language is not broad enough to protect our Catholic health providers. Catholic hospitals are a significant part of this nation’s health care, especially in the care of the most vulnerable. It is critical that we be allowed to serve our nation without compromising our conscience.
HHS is accepting comments on its definition of religious employer and has invited alternative definitions. We will be submitting written comments to HHS and will continue our dialogue with government officials on the essential need for adequate conscience protections.
We appreciate that the Administration does not intend to include abortifacient drugs as covered contraception. Our comments will address our concerns about the mechanism of action of certain FDA-approved contraceptive drugs.
The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), founded in 1915, supports the Catholic health ministry’s commitment to improve the health status of communities and create quality and compassionate health care that works for everyone. The Catholic health ministry is the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit health systems and facilities that, along with their sponsoring organizations, employ more than 750,000 women and men who deliver services combining advanced technology with the Catholic caring tradition.