Sebelius defends HHS contraception mandate


In her first appearance before lawmakers since her department inflamed the Catholic Church with a new rule mandating the provision of female contraception, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended the rule as legally sound. 

“We certainly had our legal department look at a whole host of legal issues,” Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said the administration’s “accommodation,” which was announced last Friday and mandates that insurance companies pick up the tab for the contraception, does not go far enough. That’s because Catholic-affiliated charities, hospitals and schools would still have to offer the contraception to female employees as part of their health care plans.

Under pointed questioning from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, Sebelius suggested that the administration and the church — which opposes the use of birth control as a matter of doctrine — can still make headway together. “We can work out a strategy where (Catholics) can abide by their religious freedom and the women employed in those institutions will have contraception,” Sebelius said, alluding to the year-long extension the administration has granted to all employers, including the Catholic-affiliated organizations, before they must enter into compliance with the rule.

However, the secretary indicated — as have other top aides to President Obama in recent days — that the policy will not be amended further. “That that rule will be in place and effective by August of 2013,” Sebelius said.

Lawmakers split along party lines in their reactions to the rule. “I think it adequately protects religious liberty and at the same time protects the right of women to obtain contraceptive services when they choose to,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, told the secretary: “I think you got it very wrong the first try, and you have a lot more work to do.”

Capitol Hill now has at least five measures pending which aim to repeal the HHS mandate. The oldest of them, introduced nearly a year ago, was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE, and boasts 190 co-sponsors, including nearly a dozen Democrats. At a news conference here Wednesday afternoon, Fortenberry accused the president and Secretary Sebelius of “using the strong arm of government to force all Americans to pay for drugs and procedures that may violate their ethics and their conscience rights.”


  1. I have said it before and this is another example of the case. One party in this country is anti religion and the other party is supportive of religion. There is a clear distinction. There is one party that tries everything to push religion from the public square, and one party that does not. There is one party that pushes away faith based organizations and one that supports them. There is one party that is pro abortion and one that is pro life. There is one that speaks of our freedoms as derived from God and one that refuses to ever mention God. There is one party that supports gay marriage and one that does not. There is one party that derives its core values from the sexual revolution and one that derives its core values from the Judeo-Christian tradition. And now there is a party that restrains religious freedom and one that does not. This is black and white. You can decide which party is which.

  2. One more thing, if it’s ever mentioned again that Kathleen Sebelius is a Catholic, I’m going to vomit. She’s as Catholic as Obama is religious.

  3. pagansister says:

    Kathleen Sebelius is a Catholic and President Obama is a Christian. I have no reason to doubt what they say they are. Belonging to a faith doesn’t mean, or IMO, shouldn’t mean the members are robots. Free will comes into play, as given to man by God, according to many religions. A relationship with God is a personal one—no one can define another person’s private contract with God.

  4. You may not have doubt, but many do.

  5. pagansister says:


  6. “Kathleen Sebelius is a Catholic”

    If we mean that she had Catholic parents and identifies as Catholic than yes. If we mean actually believing in a religion than almost certainly no. For many “Catholic” is almost more of an ethnic or cultural identifier, the way “Jewish” is for some. If one accepts that, a cultural identity rather than a religion, as all one needs to be Catholic than yes she’s Catholic. Being excommunicated wouldn’t even necessarily change what she calls herself.

  7. On at least two occasions, she has been instructed not to present herself for the Eucharist because she was in open dissent of non negotiable church teaching on abortion. I suspect that as this heats up with the USCCB, that this will expand to other Catholics who are in open dissent and who have been advised of it by their Bishops. In fact, if this really heats up, you might just see someone excommunicated from the Church. Frankly, it is my hope that this issue is resoved with the removal of this offensive act by the Obama administration. But it certainly has opened the eyes of the Catholic Bishops in a way they are more united than at any time in my lifetime. And they are being watched by our Pope as well to make sure that they have our eternal salvation in center focus over politics. I think if this continues and Obama digs his feet in, you might see a very different voter guide put out before the next election.

  8. Didn’t the Catholic Church support Obamacare in the first place? From George Will on ABC’s “This Week”: ” The Catholic Bishops, it serves them right. They’re the ones who were really hot for Obamacare, with a few exceptions. But they were all in favor of this. And this is what it looks like when the government decides it’s going to make your healthcare choices for you.”

    The Church made a deal with the Devil and now it’s time to pay the piper. A mixed methaphot, to be sure, but it’s apt.

  9. I saw the Will comment. I’m not sure if the Bishops did or not. I can’t exactly remember. But if they did, it was near sighted. This whole put your faith in government mentality is always near sighted. When you do so, you sell out to the lowest common denominator. It’s selling your soul to the devil.

  10. And by the way, I don’t mean to say he’s secretly Muslim. He’s a Harvard Liberal law professor. He’s an theist through and through.

  11. Oops, I meant “atheist” through and through.

  12. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    “We can still work things out, but the policy will not be amended further.”

  13. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    The Catholic Bishops have been advocating for universal health care since 1919. In the case of THIS legislation, though, the bishops supported the concept, but could not bring themselves to endorse the bill because it did not provide sufficient conscience protection to the churches. Then, as now, it was Sr. Carol Keehan who endorsed and promoted Obamacare. George Will is very smart but he doesn’t quite have it all down. Also, Kathryn Lopez was thinking along the same lines I was last night: Pope Benedict warned of this:

  14. John Tordoff says:

    “The Catholic Bishops have been advocating for universal health care since 1919.” Who did they suppose would provide this “universal health care” if not the secular government. Every American who pays federal taxes already indirectly funds abortion. It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Like St. Thomas More, the bishops got way too close to the royal flame. Don’t get fooled again.

  15. Sorry if I’m beating a dead horse here; I admit to not having read the comment threads to the various posts related to this issue on this blog. But:
    my wife and I have been talking about this a lot ever since we were read the letter from our bishop concerning this. Our bishop (Archdiocese of Brooklyn) included in his letter what I thought was the key take-away: perhaps, he said (and I’m paraphrasing), this issue shows that we have not been so great at educating the Catholic faithful on the immorality of contraception.

    My wife and I were like, yeah, that’s it, ain’t it? This is less–or perhaps not at all–about religious liberty. It’s instead about a blatant immoral act. We aren’t talking about some esoteric practice that you could only understand if you were steeped in a tradition or culture or what have you. We are talking about everyone, using their God-given reason, should be able to see as wrong. We need to hammer over and over our reasons for finding contraception immoral. The reasons are there. And they are good reasons. People listen to reason.

    This isn’t like making an Orthodox Jewish restaurant serve pork, for example. It’s not forcing the Catholic to do something that we, with our quirky history and ideas, think is immoral, as opposed to the more morally enlightened modern man.
    It’s about something that is immoral. Period.

    And if you ask me, I think that the good bishops should fight *this* fight, instead of the religious liberty fight. As my (awesome) bishop seems to have implied in his letter, perhaps we haven’t been fighting this fight enough.
    If we only fight the religious liberty fight, we are always going to have to compromise–like the way that have to currently. ‘Look,’ this or any other administration will say, ‘you can keep your quirky traditions. But the rest of us need to make sure we’re looking out for Justice and Goodness (with a capital J and G).’
    We need to show them that they are wrong about the nature of the good.

    It’s about the immorality of contraception. That’s the battle that needs fighting.

  16. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    There has been sparse coverage of how religions other than Catholic are being treated. Well, I googled Amish health insurance and there is a lot of info out there most of which is not making it into the biased liberal media.
    Amish are or will be soon totally exempt from the mandate. Moslems will likewise be exempt. Christian Scientists will likewise be exempt.
    But you Catholics–Drop dead.

  17. That’s a great reply! I’ll be sure to bring it up in another venue.

  18. Kathleen may be catholic by title but she is a poor representative . Yes God gave us free will. Kathleen and anyone who does not follow the catholic teachings have the free will to find a more liberal religion that they like. If you are employed by a catholic based employer who has a health insurance plan that does not cover all you would wish it to you have the free will to find an employer who does cover what you want. We all know what kind of christian Mr.Obama is. He demands that crosses be removed or covered if he is giving a speech where one might be seen. He attended ( until he quit for political reasons ) mass held by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The list goes on. With christians like that who needs the devil ?

  19. I caught the irony of that myself. They are full of crap.

  20. I read somewhere (Rod Dreher?) that some of the Orthodox Bishops led by Patriarch Jonah are trying to reclaim the traditional Catholic and Orthodox teaching that contraception is immoral. I hope that Catholic Bishops and priests begin to teach more clearly and more simply about why contraception is wrong.

  21. Speaking of which, it looks like Pat Deneen is saying much the same thing on FPR today. About time! Voris has been saying something similar, but Deneen can say the same thing with a bit less bite, as a prof is wont to do.
    Certainly crying ‘religious liberty’ is the path of least resistance, as its been trailed before. But perhaps Robert Frost has some advice for us Catholics here…

  22. pagansister says:

    Manny, I disagree that he is an atheist, but as you say, many have doubts about what he does or doesn’t believe regarding religion or lack of it.

  23. The immorality-religious freedom arguments notwithstanding, the red flag for me is the free/no co-pay element. All other pharmaceuticals require co-pays but not contraceptives? Why isn’t this a big issue? Or do we all cynically acquiesce to the bald fact that Obama is using tax dollars to buy the votes of the spiritual not religious crowd?

  24. Pagansister, I am sure Deacon can confirm this but Catholics are supposed to accept the magesterial teaching of the Catholic Church. These are teaching protected by infallibility which should give any Catholic comfort in knowing that they are protected by Christ and the Holy Spirit. When you are not in support of these teaching, you are placing your soul at great risk. That is why the Church makes sure that certain teachings are non negotiable to Catholics. They want no confusion. Now if Church leadership seeing this dissent allows it to go unchecked with proper discussion provided, there are next steps that are supposed to follow from refusal to allow them to receive the Eucharist, which if the person soul is burdened with grave sin, would in fact be another grave sin to receive and so should be denied. Of course the path can continue to the rite of excommunication. many believe the failure of the Bishops to follow through and stop open dissent has been a major error as it has allowed some to not fully understand Church teaching and as they live in these sins, they risk eternal damnation. This judgement is and always will be made by Christ for He is the way, the truth, and the life. But the Church has Jesus promise to be with Her until the end of time. That is why the important words one needs to hear are that supporting an abortion candidate needs to have a “proportionate reason” that would be any where close to 54 million dead infants and 4,000 more a day I keep repeating this as did my wife Greta over and over because I have yet to hear anyone come up with a single reason even close. Maybe you have one. Sebelius is in fact in my view in stage two since she has been warned a couple times by Bishops and been refused the Eucharist. She persists at her own peril in this Church. And every Church should have the ability to have their teaching and those who disagree the freedom to leave.

  25. pagansister says:

    Mark, I totally appreciate where you are coming from. I am also very aware of your crusade against abortion and ABC. I’m not a fan of abortion, much prefer alternatives, but I also believe it should remain legal for many reasons I probably have mentioned elsewhere. There are those in the Church who think everyone must stay totally within the teachings of the Church, and that no one should question and there are those who are, for lack of a better way to say it, hoping for some changes towards 21st century thinking—ie, stop condemning the use of birth control other than NFP, women priests and some other things as well. They wish to remain Catholics,but feel a bit of change would be healthy. Yes, if a person can’t agree with all the Church’s rules, they most certainly have the right to leave. I expect many have, some reluctantly and some not so much.

  26. If she doesn’t go to Mass regularly and follows worldly teachings over the teachings of the Church, then she is not in good standing with the Church. The Church was given earthly power and authority by Christ to declare what is right and wrong. In the Gospel According to Matthew Jesus tells his Apostles “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Sure there is room for free will. A person is free to be luke warm about their faith. Jesus also threatens to spew those who are Luke warm, out of his mouth on judgement day. Catholics who do actively practice their faith, don’t like to be grouped together with the A & P Catholics. Especially when it is the media holding up someone like Sebelius or Biden as an example of what Catholics should think and feel. I think that is the resentment that you hear coming across in some of these posts. AT the sametime, I think anyone here would be happy to meet with Sebelius privately and lovingly counsel her, in her faith.

    Please remember Pagansis – this is not Budhism or paganism. We are a COMMUNITY OF FAITH. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, taught us to gather together and celebrate the Eucharist (Holy Communion). Its not about going up to our mountain top and finding God on our own. It is about gathering together, to find God, in our prayers, in our hymns, in the breaking of bread. Going to Mass is esential to following our faith. When we speak of being a “Good Catholic” we are not speaking of our own personal standards, but according to the teachings of our Lord. If she disobeys those teachings, it is not OUR judgement she will face. We are not here to cast stones, but to discuss, to encourage, and pray for each other, as fellow Catholics.

  27. (IMO) They are using Sebelius to push these proposals, because she is a Catholic. Thus Obama can act like Pontius Pilot, with his hands clean, and pretend to offer a compromise at the last minute. Very dishonest of the administration and Sebelius. If the directives are coming from Obama, she should not let him hide behind her skirt and let her take the blame.

  28. pagansister says:

    Pontius Pilot? Really? Bit of an exaggeration, IMO.

  29. I like Ray’s comparison, including the image of Obama hiding behind a woman’s skirts. BTW, it is spelled Pilate, not Pilot.

  30. pagansister says:

    Pilate, Pilot—what’s in a name? IMO, Peggy, President Obama isn’t hiding nor does he need to hide behind anyone for any reason. Getting and filtering advice is part of the job of any leader. IMO, like Truman, President Obama would be the first to agree “the Buck stops here”. IOW he takes responsiblity for decisions.

  31. I just read all the remarks submitted regarding Kathleen Sebelelius & the Obama’s health care bill. Very simple solution: come Nov. B.O. family & friends, cabinet heads are out the door & end of health care bill being thrown @ us legal American, God fearing citizens. Also good-by to Nancy Pelosi another Catholic?, Joe foot in the mouth Biden. A new health care bill can be made. Does anyone really think B.O. is a good Christian? How about a narcissist, closet muslim who really does not like America & goes around to foreign head of states apologizing for what? Give me a break! Stop his horse manure & VOTE for someone who will defend everyones religious beliefs & get this great country back on track. And yes, I am a active Roman Catholic, widow, mother, grandmother, military veteran who took an oath many yrs. ago to defend our constitution & still believes in our constitution & America is still the best country in the world! Love it or leave it….


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  2. [...] It’s the ultimate in Catholic double standards: a website called launched this week, calling for Catholics to pray that he abandons his Path to Prosperity budget in favor of something more in line with the Church’s social justice teachings. If you click around, you can also find a page with one sentence requesting prayers for Vice President Joe Biden, noted adamant supporter of the pro-choice cause. (It says nothing of Kathleen Sebelius, whose Mass attendance doesn’t exactly jive with her record of eschewing established Catholic doctrine.) [...]

  3. [...] What about Ryan’s budget?  It’s no secret that liberals dislike it, although some conservatives might wonder why, considering the moderate approach Ryan took toward deficit and entitlement reform.  Our colleague Kate Hicks notices a new group of Catholics who want Ryan to have a change of heart … in the middle of an election: It’s the ultimate in Catholic double standards: a website called launched this week, calling for Catholics to pray that he abandons his Path to Prosperity budget in favor of something more in line with the Church’s social justice teachings. If you click around, you can also find a page with one sentence requesting prayers for Vice President Joe Biden, noted adamant supporter of the pro-choice cause. (It says nothing of Kathleen Sebelius, whose Mass attendance doesn’t exactly jive with her record ofeschewing established Catholic doctrine.) [...]

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