Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, said the mandate shows a “profound discrimination against people of faith.”
“While diseases or complications related to pregnancy should be treated, pregnancy itself is not a disease or illness,” she said.
Monahan also observed that Obama’s promised “accommodation” was never written into the regulation, which was finalized in its original form.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, criticized the mandate for its “absurd and surreal consequences.”
He said that Obama’s “accommodation” is merely a “legally unenforceable promise” to change the way the mandate is applied to those who object to it, without granting them an actual exemption.
Under the mentality behind the mandate, he said, “choice” has come to mean “force.”
The choice to use contraception is firmly established in the law and is not being threatened, he said. Rather, the question at hand is whether government can force religious individuals and institutions to provide coverage in violation of their religious beliefs.
The bishop also observed an inconsistency in the Health and Human Services Department’s behavior.
While the department has insisted that all employers across the country must provide contraception, it has decided to allow individual states to decide which “essential health benefits” – such as prescription drugs, emergency services and hospitalization – must be covered under new health care law.
Bishop Lori said that the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act that has been introduced in Congress would “help bring the world aright again” by explicitly protecting those who sponsor, purchase or provide health plans, allowing them to follow their religious and moral beliefs under the new mandates put in place as part of the health care reform act.
He noted that this act would not expand conscience protections beyond their present limits, but would instead retain the freedoms that have long been in place.
(Story continues below)
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The U.S. bishops have joined with numerous other academic institutions and religious groups in calling for legislative efforts to repeal the contraception mandate.