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Resistance to Obama Mandate Continues to Mount

Jul 27, 2012 | 03-Summer 2012 NRL News

NRL News
Page 18
Summer 2012
Volume 39
Issue 3

Resistance to Obama Mandate Continues to Mount

By Dave Andrusko

As National Right to Life News goes to press, opposition to the Obama Administration’s phony “accommodation” continues to widen, deepen, and harden.

Controversy erupted instantly in August 2011 when President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) required religious institutions and individuals of conscience to pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs and conscience. Faced with a tidal wave of opposition the Administration offered what it duplicitously said was an “accommodation” which was immediately criticized as inadequate and insincere.

On June 15, opposition came from an unexpected source—the Catholic Health Association (CHA)—whose support was critical to passage of ObamaCare. David Gibson, writing for the Religious News Service, observed that CHA President Sister Carol Keehan “had initially sounded a positive note about the administration’s proposals in February and again in March that sought to address a wave of bad publicity by accommodating religious concerns about the mandate.”

But by the middle of June the CHA was sending a five-page letter to HHS in which Sr. Keehan and the incoming and outgoing board chairpersons wrote:

“The more we learn, the more it appears that the … approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries.”

The CHA, the network of more than 2,000 U.S. Catholic hospitals and health care facilities, went further to conclude, “it is imperative for the Administration to abandon the narrow definition of ‘religious employer’ and instead use an expanded definition to exempt from the contraceptive mandate not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries of the Church.”

The CHA’s letter of opposition came the same week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reaffirmed its unstinting opposition at its annual spring meeting in Atlanta. Both came a week before the “Fortnight for Freedom” religious liberty campaign, which began June 21 and runs through July 4 with a nationally televised Mass scheduled for the Basilica in Washington, D.C., at noon.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who has been leading the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign, made clear the bishops would not back down. “Defending religious freedom is not a walk in the park,” he said in a speech in Atlanta. “It may be tempting to get discouraged, to second-guess the effort and to soft-pedal our message, but in fact I would say this should encourage us to do exactly the opposite.”

(NARAL Pro-Choice America, of course, bashed the Bishops. “We can’t allow the bishops to mobilize without a challenge,” wrote NARAL President Nancy Keenan in an e-mail sent out to supporters.)

All this came after 43 Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, and social service agencies filed 12 separate lawsuits in May. They accused HHS of violating the First Amendment and federal law by requiring Catholic organization to “sacrifice their beliefs in order to be able to continue their mission of serving all people in need.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, explained why the Archdiocese of Washington had gone to court in an op-ed written for the Washington Post. He explained,

“The lawsuit is about religious freedom. As is the norm with such laws, the HHS mandate includes an exemption for religious organizations. If the religious exemption in this case were reasonable, there would have been no need for this lawsuit—after all, we are indeed ‘religious’ under any sensible definition. But this mandate’s religious exemption is the narrowest ever adopted in federal law. For example, it doesn’t include any organization that serves the general public. So under this mandate, our Catholic hospitals, schools and social service programs, which serve all comers, are not ‘Catholic enough’ to be allowed to follow our Catholic beliefs.”

The mandate rules implement a provision in ObamaCare that requires health care plans to cover “preventive health services.” Back in 2009 when ObamaCare was under consideration in the Senate, National Right to Life warned that this provision would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate coverage of any medical service, including abortion, merely by adding the service to an expandable list.

In a second term, Obama could use precisely the same statutory authority to mandate that virtually all health plans pay for elective surgical abortion on demand.

“The same twisted logic will be applied,” NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson has explained. “By ordering health plans to cover elective abortion, health plans would save the much higher costs of prenatal care, childbirth, and care for the baby—and under the Obama scam, if a procedure saves money, then that means that you’re not really paying for it when the government mandates it.”

Defenders of the mandate respond as if it is critics who sought a fight for “political” reasons. But it cannot be emphasized strongly enough that this battle was launched by the Obama Administration. Opponents merely want traditional conscience protections restored. Out of his own political calculations, Obama chose this fight while, of course, blaming opponents.