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The Point Washington Update - February 2012

In this edition:

  • Contraception Mandate

Article #1
Editor's note: On Feb. 10, President Obama made an announcement regarding the technical implementation of his administration's controversial policy of mandating contraception coverage nationwide with very limited conscience objection exceptions. Following are reactions to that announcement and policy.

View #1: Excerpted from Washington Post commentary by Charles Krauthammer, Overreach: Obamacare vs. the Constitution, published February 16, 2012: President Obama’s birth control “accommodation” was as politically successful as it was morally meaningless. It was nothing but an accounting trick that still forces Catholic (and other religious) institutions to provide medical insurance that guarantees free birth control, tubal ligation and morning-after abortifacients — all of which violate church doctrine on the sanctity of life.

The trick is that these birth control/abortion services will supposedly be provided independently and free of charge by the religious institution’s insurance company. But this changes none of the moral calculus. Holy Cross Hospital, for example, is still required by law to engage an insurance company that is required by law to provide these doctrinally proscribed services to all Holy Cross employees.

Consider the constitutional wreckage left by Obamacare:

The assault on the free exercise of religion. Only churches themselves are left alone. Beyond the churchyard gate, religious autonomy disappears. Every other religious institution must bow to the state because, by this administration’s regulatory definition, church schools, hospitals and charities are not “religious” and thus have no right to the free exercise of religion — no protection from being forced into doctrinal violations commanded by the state.

The assault on individual autonomy. Every citizen without insurance is ordered to buy it, again under penalty of law. This so-called individual mandate is now before the Supreme Court — because never before has the already hypertrophied Commerce Clause been used to compel a citizen to enter into a private contract with a private company by mere fact of his existence.

This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy.

View #2: Excerpted from Health-Care Critics Unmoved by Obama’s Contraception Compromise, commentary by Kirsten Powers published in The Daily Beast, February 11, 2012: Some people won’t take yes for an answer. Obama tossed his original mandate; Catholic institutions will now not be required to purchase health insurance at odds with their religious faith, nor will they be required to alert employees as to where to find them. Instead, when women ask their doctor for contraception, their health insurance companies will be required to cover it for free.

The National Right to Life Committee called Obama’s announcement a “scam.” Sen. Roy Blunt called it an “accounting gimmick.” Republican Study Committee chairman Jim Jordan called it a “fig leaf” that “still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion.”

Dr. David Stevens, the CEO of the Christian Medical Association, told me, “This is, at best, a smokescreen. There is still going to be legislation coming out of Congress [to override this rule] because this is the most fundamental of our constitutional rights, the free exercise of religion. There should be a religious exemption for any American who is opposed to this.”

If you accept the argument that the government can’t make an individual pay for policies he or she finds morally repugnant, then that would mean I shouldn’t have to pay taxes if I am living in a state that executes people, since I find the death penalty morally repugnant. (The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty too.)

It is old anti-Obama-health-care talking points about government mandates dressed up as a religious-freedom issue. The White House made a serious effort to address real concerns about religious liberty. People of good faith should be satisfied.

View #3: Excerpted from the testimony of CMDA CEO Dr. David Stevens before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health:

  1. The potential “religious exemption” in the contraception mandate--exempting only a nano-sector of “religious employers” from the guidelines--is meaningless to conscientiously objecting healthcare professionals, insurers and patients.
  2. The contraception mandate can potentially trigger a decrease in access to healthcare by patients in medically underserved regions and populations.
  3. The contraception mandate further contributes to an increasingly hostile environment in which medical students, residents and graduate physicians face discrimination, job loss and ostracism for holding pro-life views on abortion, controversial contraceptives and other ethical issues.
  4. The contraception mandate creates a climate of coercion that can prompt pro-life healthcare professionals to limit the scope of their medical practice and can discourage pro-life medical students and residents from choosing careers in Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology and other specialties likely to involve conflicts of conscience.
  5. The contraception mandate can potentially cause a decrease in the provision of health insurance for employees of pro-life healthcare employers who want to avoid conflicts of conscience regarding the subsidy and implied endorsement of controversial contraceptives.

The contraceptive mandate rule sweepingly tramples conscience rights, which have provided a foundation for the ethical and professional practice of medicine. The administration should rescind this mandate entirely.

View #4: CMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: "In announcing his apparent intention (the subsequent written rule issued by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services [HHS] actually did not implement his promised changes) on his contraception coercion policy, the President contended, 'Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives. Ninety-nine percent.'

"First, that figure strains credibility (for an exposé, see "Fudging the figures on contraception). Any stats from the Guttmacher Institute--founded by Planned Parenthood to serve as the research arm of the abortion lobby--should be viewed askance.

"But if the 99 percent figure were true, where's the huge problem of access to contraception that he says justifies the government's draconian actions?

"If President Obama is intent on government-mandated healthcare, instead of mandating relatively inexpensive pills that don't treat a disease and 99 percent of patients already access, wouldn't it make more sense to mandate the provision of lifesaving medicines that patients can't afford or obtain?

"In his speech at Notre Dame, President Obama promised a 'sensible' respect for conscience, but in practice he and his administration have demonstrated a pattern of contempt for conscience. The President has:

  1. gutted the only federal regulation protecting the exercise of conscience in healthcare;
  2. denied of federal grant funds for aiding human trafficking victims because a faith-based organization refused to participate in abortion;
  3. lobbied the Supreme Court to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights; and
  4. issued a coercive contraceptive mandate that imposes the government's abortion ideology on every American.

Every healthcare professional, regardless of political persuasion, should be protesting these assaults on our freedoms and contacting legislators to enact conscience-protecting legislation such as the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, introduced in the House by Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb. 1st) and in the Senate by Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)."

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