Bishops pledge to defy Obama administration on contraception mandate

posted at 10:25 am on January 31, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier this month, HHS issued a finding that reaffirmed its position that all employers had to comply with a new mandate to provide contraception support in health-care plans — even religious organizations whose doctrines oppose pre- and post-conception intervention.  Needless to say, the decision — which gives churches and other explicitly religious organizations only a one-year waiver to comply — are outraged over the intrusion on their consciences.  Three Catholic bishops announced yesterday that they will defy the Obama administration and fight the rule, and more will surely follow:

At least three Catholic bishops have said they will not comply with the mandate the Obama administration put in place recently in Obamacare that will force religious employers to pay for birth control, contraception and drugs that may cause abortions in their health care plans.

The Obama Administration issued a statement re-iterating the “contraceptive mandate” requiring all insurance providers cover the full range of FDA-approved drugs and devices would remain intact. This mandate, originally proposed in August, includes drugs that work after conception to destroy life rather than prevent it. The statement included a postponement of one year for religious groups that do not already carry contraceptives and additionally would not be exempted under last year’s narrow definition of “religious employer.”

The mandate not only violates such existing conscience protections on abortion such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment (in so far as Plan B and Ella are covered), but also violates the principles of the Church Amendments which protects conscience rights for those who object to contraceptives and other services on moral or religious grounds.

Responding to it, Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix announced that his diocese will not comply with the mandate and Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, agreed to refuse to comply.

It’s early yet, but the entire USCCB should be acting in unison along these lines.  The Catholic Church, as well as other religious organizations, should not have to fund procedures and devices that violate their tenets on the sanctity of life through employer-based insurance plans.  As Life News says, this is a violation of the First Amendment on its face — having the federal government intrude on religious practices, especially in areas that break no other laws for public peace and safety.

Beyond the religious exemption, however, is a larger question.  Why has HHS arrogated to itself the authority to mandate coverage for contraceptive and abortive devices (ie, the IUD)?  Why do health insurance plans need to cover what is clearly an elective process?  They don’t cover nose jobs or breast enhancements, or for that matter, LASIK in most cases.  Lasik at least treats a chronic medical condition (which is easily and less expensively treated with eyeglasses or contacts).  For all other entirely elective medical treatments, patients cover the costs themselves.  If insurance plans and/or employers want to cover contraception because of market demand and competition, I’d have no problem with it, but that’s obviously not the case if Kathleen Sebelius and Barack Obama feel the need to impose mandates on industry to add to their costs in covering entirely elective products and services.

Hopefully, this will go to court sooner rather than later and get torn down quickly by the courts.  The larger question remains, however.  We need to get government out of the market, and this example of heavy-handed social engineering conducted by the elites is a great example of what happens when the federal government gets the kind of power they do in ObamaCare.

Update: The Anchoress tries to find the silver lining:

To be sure, this situation is cause for concern, but there are some bright spots in all of this. Although the mainstream press has reported very little about this event—a close examination might prove uncomfortable for their own worldviews—the unified public expression of righteous defiance by the U.S. bishops is a powerful development.

Just as importantly, the laity—divided for decades on issues ranging from felt-banners to dress to dogma—has found a line in the sand upon which they can come together; “conservative” Catholics are reassured to see their more “progressive” brethren defending the church’s right to be who and what she is; more “progressive” Catholics may be coming to realize that—as relentlessly single-minded as some of their opponents could be—had they not held the line all these years, much could be crumbling at this moment.

I hope she’s right and that this becomes a hinge in history when many people awaken to the ability of government to abuse power, and not just the few affected.


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