With the so-called Obama healthcare “reform” law and the horses out of the barn, Catholic leaders are now complaining with a fevered pitch that the administration’s definition of a “religious employer” is going to force Catholic and other pro-life healthcare providers to choose between violating their consciences or curtailing access to care. Catholic educational institutions will also be forced to provide employees with healthcare plans that are inconsistent with the Church’s moral teachings.
Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, the Chancellor and General Counsel of the Archdiocese of Washington, Jane Belford, said that if the definition of religious employer is not changed:
Catholic schools that teach abortion is morally wrong could have to pay for abortifacient drugs for their employees; and Catholic health clinics that refuse to provide contraception or sterilization for patients could have to subsidize contraception and sterilization for their employees.
Criticism has become more vocal since the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, approved new regulations that order nearly all private health plans to cover FDA-approved “contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling” as part of their “preventive services” for women. The new regulation defines a religious employer as a non-profit organization that “inculcates” religious values and primarily hires and serves people who share its religious tenets.
The problem this definition presents is that it excludes many “employers of conscience”—including Catholic hospitals, universities and social services—which serve all people in need, regardless of their religion and whose commitment to Christian service is not intended primarily to inculcate religious values.
The President and CEO of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, William J. Cox, said this narrow definition HHS has overlooked “the contributions of Catholic health care and undid centuries of religious tolerance.” Cox testified:
It is particularly ironic that HHS is substantially burdening Catholic institutional ministries because they respectfully avoid inculcating religious beliefs, and compassionately serve persons of all faith traditions and those having no faith tradition at all…
Simply stated churches and religious institutions have the right to define and govern themselves free from government interference and entanglement.
The Catholic leaders were unanimous in imploring Congress to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179), which aims to expand the religious exemption allowed under Obamacare.
The criticism is accurate: The definition is exclusive rather than inclusive. It divides rather than unites. It’s dismissive of rather than accommodating.
At the same time, however, isn’t much of it a bit late in the “game”? After all, in the debate leading up to the passage of the so-called Obamacare “reform,” many Catholic leaders seemed very content to accept the “promises” the President and members of his administration offered them while lobbying for their support of the so-called “healthcare reform” scheme.
Having danced with wolves, why should the critics be unhappy that the wolves have bit the hand that fed them?
So, the horses are now out of the barn and the critics are hoping that the other side of the aisle will come to their aid. Let’s hope so!
But, having provided support in opening the barn door to this anti-life scheme, isn’t the criticism coming a little late? Who duped whom?