.- The St. Gianna Physician’s Guild has launched an online petition asking the Obama administration to remove references to contraception and contraception counseling from its new health care guidelines and to provide a conscience clause to protect the religious freedom of Catholics.
“We are going to send a message to the Obama administration that this contraception mandate is wrong, discriminatory and violates the religious rights of Catholics all across America,” said guild president Thomas McKenna.
On Aug. 1, the Department of Health and Human Services adopted new guidelines for women’s health that mandate coverage for surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, including abortifacient drugs like Ella. They also mandate counseling to promote contraception.
The guild’s petition charged that the guidelines are “bad medicine” because they encourage “unhealthy and immoral sexual practices” which will increase demand for more STD treatment and abortion services.
The petition said that the regulation undermines “fundamental principles of the Catholic faith.” It is “discriminatory against Catholic institutions” and violates their freedom of conscience. It is “biased” against health care professionals.
The petition also contended that the regulation is “misleading” because increased access to birth control will increase the need for abortion. It cited the Guttmacher Institute’s finding that over 50 percent of women go to abortion clinics because of failed birth control.
The administration’s announcement for the mandates also announced proposed religious exemptions. However, these applied only to non-profit religious employers whose purpose is “the inculcation of religious values.” To qualify for the exemption, employers must primarily employ persons who share their religious tenets and must primarily serve those who share those beliefs.
“Under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, said Aug. 1.
Notre Dame Law School professor O. Carter Snead told CNA on Aug. 2 that the exemption fails to cover “virtually any” Catholic institution that serves or employs non-Catholics. He said the government mandate could require contraceptive coverage for the health care plans of Catholic universities and Catholic social service agencies.
The San Diego-based St. Gianna’s Physician’s Guild was founded to unite and encourage Catholic physicians and others in the health care profession. It aims to promote and defend Catholic principles and to inspire sanctification in members’ lives.
The guild is named for St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a physician and mother who died in 1962 at the age of 39. She sacrificed her life for that of her unborn daughter when she faced complications caused by a tumor that developed during her pregnancy.
The petition can be found at http://stopthebirthcontrolmandate.org.