Business leaders decry HHS contraception mandate
By Michelle Bauman
President Barack Obama talks with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the Oval Office, Nov. 4, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama talks with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the Oval Office, Nov. 4, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

.- Catholic leaders of both religious and secular businesses across the country are denouncing the Obama administration's contraception mandate for forcing a moral dilemma on them and negatively impacting their companies.

Jonathan Reyes, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, said that the “horrific” decision is a “violation of conscience” that will negatively impact his ability to operate his business.

On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a “preventative services” mandate that will require virtually all employers to purchase health insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception – including drugs that cause early abortions – at no cost to employees.

A narrow religious exemption to the mandate exists, but it applies only to organizations that restrict their service and employment primarily to members of their own faith, and exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values.

Despite an outcry from the U.S. bishops and other religious individuals and organizations who morally object to the demands of the mandate, the administration refused to broaden the religious exemption.

Reyes said that he agrees “entirely” with the bishops’ objections. By issuing the mandate, he explained, the Obama administration is actually harming the thousands of poor and needy who are aided by Catholic organizations.

According to its website, Catholic Charities in Denver serves more than 80,000 people each year through more than 40 ministries. 

“If we can’t offer our employees health care that doesn’t violate our conscience, that will impact our ability to serve those in need,” Reyes said.

“This will ultimately hurt the people we serve because it will reduce our ability to help them.”

Dr. Michael Ebertz, who is president and CEO of Skin Care Doctors, P.A., said that he is “very upset” by the ruling.

Ebertz sees the mandate as “a direct attack on the tenets of our faith and our individual freedoms and liberties.”

Ebertz, who runs five dermatology clinics in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, said that the contraception mandate places his faith in direct conflict with federal regulation.

And while he is “praying hard” for the mandate to be overturned, he is also struggling with the question of what to do if it is not.

If he is forced to violate federal regulations in order to practice his faith, Ebertz says he would see that as civil disobedience, “not going to the back of the bus, so to speak.”

He has even been wondering if, in a worst-case scenario, he would have to consider dissolving his company, which he helped found in 1998.

“I’m really at a very difficult crossroads,” he said.

Ebertz is very troubled by what he sees as the latest “broken promise” in a trend of “prejudice towards Judeo-Christian values” that has developed in the Obama administration.

A firm belief in God-given freedoms is “what separates the U.S. from other countries,” he explained.

Kevin Hostutler, CEO and president of ACGI Software, said that he faces a dilemma as a Catholic, a business owner and a citizen.

Based in Columbia, Md., Hostutler’s company creates software for professional associations throughout the country.

His company does not do business with industries that he has moral objections to, such as abortion and pornography companies.

“That’s the decision I’ve made as a business owner,” he said. “I don’t want my resources going to that.”

Hostutler is concerned that his ability to run his company according to his principles as a Catholic will be compromised by the new regulations.

Although Hostutler is not required to provide dental or vision benefits for his employees, that same reasoning does not apply to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

“I can’t opt out of it,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Hostutler also mentioned that he expects the mandate to financially impact companies because more services are being covered in the insurance plans they have to purchase.

“You’re boxed into a corner,” he said. “It’s definitely coercion.”

On Jan. 31, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation that would protect the rights of both individuals and organizations who object to the mandate for religious reasons.

The bill would protect Catholics who run companies that are not religiously-affiliated.

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