.- The opportunity is coming to a close for Catholics and others to voice their opposition to religious freedom violations in federal mandates for contraception and sterilization coverage in insurance plans.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 1 issued an interim final rule mandating coverage as part of “preventive services” for women of childbearing age. The mandate also requires coverage for related education and counseling services.
The comment period ends on Sept. 30.
Though the mandate provides a religious exemption, it applies only to institutions with the inculcation of religious values as a primary purpose. Exempted groups must primarily employ and serve members of their own religion. Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston have said it is “incredibly narrow” and would not cover most Catholic agencies and institutions, including student health plans at Catholic educational institutions.
The Catholic bishops have urged opponents of the rule to write to the Department of Health and Human Services to voice their opposition.
The bishops also urge support for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, H.R. 1179, which would forbid federal requirements for health care plans to provide items or services which violate religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The U.S. bishops’ conference provides more information on action to take at http://www.usccb.org/conscience