HHS Mandate Creates Absurd Results, Bishop Lori Tells House Judiciary Committee

February 28, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—The Department ofHealth and Human Services mandate that would force virtually all employers to payfor sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs toemployees has “absurd consequences,” Bishop William E. Lori said February 28.

BishopLori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chair of the US bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee onReligious Liberty, made his comments in testimony about the Patient Protectionand Affordable Care Act before the House of Representatives JudiciaryCommittee.

Hiswritten and oral testimony can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/02-28-12-Lori-Testimony-for-House-Judiciary-long-form.pdfand http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Oral-Testimony-of-Most-Reverend-William-E-short-version.pdf

BishopLori voiced concern for an “accommodation” President Obama described February10, which suggested a way around moral concerns the church outlined in the healthcare reform act.

“This‘accommodation’ would not change the scope of the mandate and its exemption,”he said. “Instead, it would take the form of additional regulations whoseprecise contours are yet unknown and that may not issue until August 2013.”

“Forpresent purposes, the ‘accommodation’ is just a legally unenforceable promiseto alter the way the mandate would still apply to those who are still notexempt from it,” he said. He added that “the promised alteration appearslogically impossible.” He said that despite discussions on an accommodation thePresident has already finalized the controversial mandate that was proposedmonths earlier “without change,” thereby “excluding in advance any expansion ofthe ‘religious employer’ exemption. Somehow, this situation of ‘no change,’ isheralded as ‘great change,’ for which the Administration has been widelycongratulated.”

BishopLori underlined the government’s forcing a religious body to violate itsbeliefs.

“Iemphasize this word—‘force’—precisely because it is one of the key differencesbetween a mere dispute over reproductive health policy and a dispute overreligious freedom. This is not a matterof whether contraception may be prohibited by the government. This is not evena matter of whether contraception may be supported by the government. Instead,it is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced bythe government to provide coverage for contraception or sterilization, even ifthat violates their religious beliefs,” he said.

“It is not a matter of ‘repackaging’ or ‘framing’this as a religious freedom dispute. It is a matter of acknowledging the basicfact that government is forcing religious people and groups to do somethingthat violates their consciences,” he said.

BishopLori noted that earlier “people and groups of all political stripes—left, right,and center—came forward to join us in opposing it. But now, the mere prospectof the ‘accommodation’ described above has caused some simply to abandon theirprior objection. In so doing, theyundermine the basic American values that they would otherwise espouse.”

“Onlyin the post-mandate world might it be considered ‘liberal’ for the governmentto coerce people into violating their religious beliefs; to justify thatcoercion based on the minority status of those beliefs; to intrude into theinternal affairs of religious organizations; to crush out religious diversityin the private sector; and to incentivize religious groups to serve fewer ofthe needy.”

Hequestioned why sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients are requirementsof the health care act while decisions on prescription drugs and hospitalizationthat are supposed to be “essential” are “handed off to each state.”

“HHSwill brook no dissent regarding whether sterilization, contraception, andabortifacients must be covered as ‘preventive services,’” he said. “HHS isessentially indifferent regarding what is— or is not—mandated as an ‘essentialhealth benefit.’ As a result, genuinely beneficial items may well be omittedfrom coverage, state-by-state. By contrast, states have no such discretion withrespect to sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients.”

Heasked the committee for support for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act(H.R.1179, S. 1467) to “help bring the world aright again.”

“This legislation would not expandreligious freedom beyond its present limits, but simply retain Americans’longstanding freedom not to be forced by the federal government to violatetheir convictions,” he said.

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Keywords: Bishop William Lori, US Bishops, United States Conferenceof Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Healthand Human Services, House Judiciary Committee, sterilization, contraceptives, abortifacients

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