Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 30, 2011 / 15:15 pm America/Denver (CNA).
The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania are speaking out against rules that could mandate contraception and sterilization in new health plans, calling them an indefensible assault on conscience and freedom.
“There is no reasonable defense for a coercive approach to contraception in health insurance coverage,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a Sept. 29 statement. “The Health and Human Services mandate is not simply 'bad' social policy, but precedent-setting in its disregard for conscience rights.”
The Department of Health and Human Services' proposed rules, formulated in response to the 2010 federal health care law, were announced Aug. 1 and are open to comment until Sept. 30. They require nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious groups, to cover government-approved methods of contraception and surgical sterilization.
In their official public response filed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Pennsylvania bishops noted that the supposed “religious exemption” included in the mandate “fails miserably to assure that religious conscience is protected.”
The exemption for religious groups, they said, “is so narrowly crafted that hospitals, universities, religious affiliated social service agencies, Catholic dioceses, parishes and even Catholic elementary schools would be subject to the contraceptive/sterilization mandate.”