Loading
Obama administration refuses to change contraception mandate
By Michelle Bauman
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Credit: HHS
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Credit: HHS

.- The Obama administration announced Jan. 20 that it will not expand an exemption for religious groups that object to its requirement for health insurance plans to cover sterilization and contraception – including abortion-causing drugs – free of charge.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a Jan. 20 statement that religious employers who object to providing the coverage will be required to comply with the new law by Aug. 1, 2013, one year later than the initial deadline. 

Sebelius noted that “important concerns” had been “raised about religious liberty.”

Those speaking out against the mandate included many Catholic organizations, such as schools, hospitals and social agencies, which serve all people in need, regardless of their religious affiliation.

During the comment period that followed the announcement of the rule, the administration received an outpouring of criticism from believers of various religious backgrounds.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, argued against the regulation, warning that Jesus himself would not qualify for the religious exemption. 

In December, a group of more than 60 evangelical, Baptist and Jewish leaders voiced their objection to the mandate in a letter to President Obama. They observed that “religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections” to the proposed mandate.

Sebelius said that those concerns were given “very careful consideration” and asserted that the final rule “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

While the rule will take effect for most employers on Aug. 1, 2012, Sebelius said that there will be a one-year “delayed implementation” of the mandate for nonprofit employers who do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans due to religious beliefs.

“This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule,” she said.

Sebelius added that these employers will be required to inform employees “that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”

The announcement comes one day after Pope Benedict XVI warned of “grave threats” to religious liberty in the U.S.

In an address to a group of U.S. bishops visiting the Vatican, the Pope voiced great concern over “certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”

He said that it is “imperative” for “the entire Catholic community” in the U.S. to realize that the threats are “hostile to Christianity.”

Concerns about freedom of conscience were raised in Aug. 2011, when Sebelius issued an interim final rule outlining the initial “preventive health services” requirement.

Although the interim rule included an exemption for religious employers, many religious organization said it was too narrow and would not include many church ministries.

To qualify for the exemption, an employer must have the purpose of teaching religious values, and must employ and serve primarily those who share its religious beliefs.

The Health and Human Services Department is currently being sued by attorneys for The Becket Fund in separate lawsuits on behalf of Belmont Abbey College and Colorado Christian University.

Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel for The Becket Fund, called the move “a shameless attempt to kick the can down the road in an election year.”

Smith said that the Obama administration knows that the mandate “cannot survive constitutional scrutiny” and is therefore “trying to delay the inevitable judgment day.”


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
20

Liturgical Calendar

April 20, 2014

EASTER SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:13-35

Gospel
Date
04/20/14
04/19/14
04/18/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Second Reading:: Col 3:1-4
Gospel:: Jn 20:1-9

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:13-35

Homily
Date
04/20/14
04/19/14
04/18/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: