.- The leaders of 20 national Catholic organizations are objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent “preventive services” mandate with an ad placed in two D.C.-area newspapers. They insist that the requirements would harm both Catholic institutions and society as a whole.
“As written, the rule will force Catholic organizations that play a vital role in providing health care and other needed services either to violate their conscience or severely curtail those services,” said the statement, which appeared as an Oct. 11 ad in Politico and The Hill.
“This would harm both religious freedom and access to health care.”
The statement was signed by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the leaders of several prominent Catholic universities, health care associations, lay associations and agencies that serve refugees and the poor. Such organizations could be affected by the mandate as it is currently written.
The “preventive services” mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been repeatedly challenged by Catholic leaders as a violation of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
The mandate would require “almost all private health plans to cover sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including drugs that may cause an early abortion,” the statement noted.
Although a religious exemption to the mandate currently exists, critics have argued that it is too narrow and would exclude most Catholic hospitals, schools and other organizations.
To qualify for the religious exemption, a Catholic organization would have to meet a strict set of criteria, which include hiring and serving primarily Catholics. Many Catholic institutions are open to serving all individuals, regardless of their faith.
“The HHS mandate puts many faith-based organizations and individuals in an untenable position,” the joint statement said. “But it also harms society as a whole by undermining a long American tradition of respect for religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
“In a pluralistic society, our health care system should respect the religious and ethical convictions of all. We ask Congress, the Administration, and our fellow Americans to acknowledge this truth and work with us to reform the law accordingly.”
The full list of groups protesting the HHS mandate and the ad itself can be seen by clicking here. The coalition includes Catholic universities, medical organizations, charitable groups and lay men and women's societies.