Oppose HHS's ObamaCeptive Mandate
Last weekend in homilies across America, Catholic priests lambasted the new Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation mandating Catholic and other religious institutions fund insurance coverage of abortifacients, sterilizations, and contraceptives (what collectively we call ObamaCeptives). HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called this mandate an "appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services." In the Archdiocese of Washington, priests read from their pulpits Cardinal Donald Wuerl's letter calling HHS's regulation a violation of "our faith conviction and...freedom" and for us to contact legislators.
However, HHS's regulation should not surprise us. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) allows unlimited federal control of insurance plans, and for decades feds have called for increased public access to abortifacients and contraceptives. Recently, for instance, HHS's Healthy People 2020, an inter-agency workgroup that issues lengthy wish-lists of federal "health" initiatives, tells feds to, among other absurdities, "Increase the proportion of publicly[-]funded family planning clinics that offer the full-range of FDA [Food and Drug Administration]-approved methods of contraception, including emergency contraception, onsite."
We must remember that, although feds now threaten Catholic and other religious institutions' liberty, we have failed to protect Catholic and other religious individuals' liberty. Since the mid-1990s, many states have forced insurance companies to cover abortifacients and contraceptives while religious institutions gained exemption from participating in such coverage. For example, since 1998 our state of Maryland has mandated contraceptive coverage but a "religious organization may request...an exclusion...if the required coverage conflicts with the religious organization's bona fide religious beliefs and practices." What about us individuals' bona fide religious beliefs and practices? Instead of donating more money to church collection baskets and such noble causes as pro-life advocacy and Christian outreach, we've been funding others' Plan B and Progestin-only pills.
By what authority does Congress (and HHS living vicariously through it) even mandate ObamaCeptive coverage? With no mention of powers to promote public health or population control, the Constitution lists in 385 words Congress's few enumerated powers, including among others, the establishment of post offices and roads, the coining of money, and the providing of a navy. Besides, ObamaCeptives can't be health or medical care: The last we checked, fertility's no disease and babies ain't cancer. Instead, ObamaCeptives are, to borrow Dr. Jennifer Morse's language, "[interventions in] people who are perfectly healthy to stop a perfectly normal[,] healthy process from taking place." And how deadly are some contraceptives: Few folks know this estimate, but the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimated that, in just 1998 in the United States, birth control pills aborted 1.8 million babies by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb.
We implore our readers: Oppose HHS's entire mandate! This time, we must remember all individuals' religious liberty, not just religious institutions' liberty. Scripture teaches us Catholics that, from respect for God as the Highest Authority, flows respect for proper civil authority. So let's also pray for our legislators. Facing execution in 1535 on the Tower of London's scaffold, Saint Thomas More made clear, "I am the King's good servant, but God's first." We say no less.
Monsignor Edward J. Filardi is Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bethesda, MD; Daniel J. Smyth is a Technical Writer in Rockville, MD, who blogs at danielsmyth.org.