and Lack of Sufficient Conscience Protections
August 9, 2011
The Catholic Bishops of Texas are joining together to oppose the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that all medical insurance and care plans pay for preventative services including contraceptives and abortifacients, with only a narrow and insufficient conscience protection and exemption clause for religious organizations.
First and foremost, we, the Catholic Bishops of Texas as well as the Bishops of the United States, believe this mandate violates the moral and religious convictions of providers and employees in order to participate in an organization’s health care plan. The language in the HHS mandate for the exemption of religious institutions and organizations in regards to the use of contraceptives is not broad enough to protect our Catholic hospitals and institutions. Catholic hospitals play an indispensable role all across our country in providing care to the most vulnerable in our society and should be protected and allowed to provide this critical care without compromising our conscience and moral beliefs. As it stands, the HHS mandate, while it may offer some good services, would constitute a grave violation of the right to freedom of conscience for millions of Americans and seriously threaten the good work and mission of our Catholic hospitals and other health care institutions. As Pope John Paul II teaches in Evangelium Vitae:
Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law…What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane. (74)
The Catholic Health Association (CHA) has also strongly opposed this HHS mandate because of the inclusion of contraception and the inadequate conscience protections for religious institutions. You may find the statement from CHA on their website at http://www.chausa.org/.
Secondly, the mandating of contraceptives to be universally made available under the guise of preventative care is seriously flawed and misleading. Contraception is almost always prescribed for personal and lifestyle reasons, and not for any type of preventative medicine. In addition, contraception poses serious health risks to women such as a significantly increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease which are the very health conditions and diseases that HHS is trying to prevent.
Please take time to review the Texas Catholic Conference Action Alert and then join me, the other bishops of Texas as well all bishops in the United States, in objecting to the HHS mandate.
Action Alert: View the Texas Catholic Conference Alert!