Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time to act is running out! — UPDATED

So you know that Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Disservices, has accepted the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine on eight “preventive services” that must be included in any health plan under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which include “all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

Now, HHS is prepared to exempt religious employers. "Consistent with most States that have such exemptions[?], as described below, the amended regulations specify that, for purposes of this policy, a religious employer is one that: (1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization ... churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as ... the exclusively religious activities of any religious order."

As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has remarked, this definition is “so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and health care providers.” Under this rule, “our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics.”

The net effect, of course, is to create a legal ghetto in which only a limited range of church-affiliated employers can act upon their consciences; if you don't fall within this range, you don't count, so you don't get to be considered religious or to have a conscience that objects to such practices. What if you're an agnostic, but have a moral objection to paying for other peoples' sterilizations and contraceptives? [Do such people exist? There are atheists against abortion, so I'm not willing to say no.] Sucks to be you; pony up your money, chump.

Ironically, this is being done for the benefit of people who don't want us to impose our morality on them.

So time's running out to make your opposition heard. You can file a comment through Regulations.gov (if needed, reference Document ID# IRS-2010-0017-0038), and through the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment website. You can also send a message to your congresspersons to back the Support Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). When writing to Regulations.gov, I suggest you use the same wording as the NCHLA uses:

Pregnancy is not a disease, and drugs and surgeries to prevent it are not basic health care that the government should require all Americans to purchase. Please remove sterilization and prescription contraceptives from the list of “preventive services” the federal government is mandating in private health plans. It is especially important to exclude any drug that may cause an early abortion, and to fully respect religious freedom as other federal laws do. The narrow religious exemption in HHS’s new rule protects almost no one. I urge you to allow all organizations and individuals to offer, sponsor and obtain health coverage that does not violate their moral and religious convictions.
The deadline to make your voice heard is September 30th, just ten days away. Do it now, and you won't have to kick yourself later for forgetting to do it!

[H/T to Father Z!]

Update: September 27, 2011
Patrick J. Reilly has a great breakdown on the issue on InsideCatholic. Reilly points out that the rules are so limiting that most Catholic non-profits, not being owned by the Church itself, would be excluded, as would Catholic colleges. "In fact, the HHS regulations were implemented immediately in August — an extraordinary move that allows public comment only after the rules are already in force — precisely because HHS wanted to ensure that students quickly receive free coverage for birth control and sterilization."

Chris Blosser of The American Catholic quotes Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at length, and it's worth repeating here:

Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions provide about $30 billion worth of service annually in this country. No one presents a baptismal certificate at the emergency room. The hungry do not recite the Creed to get groceries at the food pantry. Students can pursue learning at The Catholic University of America, Villanova or any other Catholic college without passing a catechism admissions test. The commitment to serve those in need, the sick, the hungry, the uneducated, is intrinsic to Catholicism. No federal rule (except now HHS’s) says the church must limit its service to Catholics if it is to be true to its teaching. HHS doesn’t get the parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped the stranger simply because he was in need.
Look at the numbers. Catholic hospitals admit about 5.6 million people annually. That’s one out of every six persons seeking hospital care in the United States. Catholic Charities serves more than 9 million people annually. Catholic colleges and universities teach 850,000 students annually. Among those served are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and members of any other religious or irreligious group you can name.
One commenter said, "My impression is that our betters in DC would prefer not to have the ever-expanding number of citizens receiving aid/charity/welfare/services to be receiving from any hands but theirs." 

Oh, no, my dears, that's not it at all. The point is to impose the requirement on as many businesses and institutions as possible, and a conscience exclusion that reflected reality much more closely would deprive so many people ... especially all those poor Catholic college students so desperately in need of free contraceptives and sterilizations, boo hoo hoo. 

HHS believes they can get away with it because they can't envision religious groups getting out of charity and education altogether, or prevailing against the government in court. And can you imagine the stink they'd raise if such institutions tried to fire their non-sectarian employees, restrict services to fellow believers, and make religious indoctrination part of the services? Boy, it would be a race to see who would act first: the government, the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center! All of them screaming furiously, "DISCRIMINATION!"

You have to remember that, whether Pres. Obama is a churchgoing Christian or not, he is a true believer in "reproductive rights", especially abortion and contraception — more so than any president since Johnson. Moreover, the credibility of and public support for his presidency is suffering badly; his only hope now is for the Republican candidate to be a complete dud à la John Kerry in 2004 ... a scenario looking disturbingly likely. So he's playing to his political base; support for abortion is dying, but most people still haven't connected the dots between abortion and contraception. Especially those poor students at Catholic colleges — well, at least the Jesuit-run colleges, boo hoo hoo.

So why are you still reading this? Scroll back up, click the links and get to writing!