Six things to know about the HHS mandate

From Sister Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB blog:

1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them “religious employers” worthy of conscience protection, because they do not “serve[] primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets.” HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the “contraceptive mandate,” HHS’s mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the HHS mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion, such as “Ella,” a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate. Prominent Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies have publicly criticized HHS’s decision, including columnists E.J. Dionne, Mark Shields, and Michael Sean Winters; college presidents Father John Jenkins and Arturo Chavez; and Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association.

5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups–none of which oppose contraception–have issued statements against HHS’s decision. The Washington Post, USA Today, N.Y. Daily News, Detroit News, and other secular outlets, columnists, and bloggers have editorialized against it.

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (NY, CA, OR). And even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the 28 state contraceptive mandates by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.

Spread this around.  More people need to know.


  1. Here’s what Pope Paul VI wrote about artificial birth control more than 40 years ago:

    “Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”

  2. Carol Caruthers says:

    I still think that HHS is treading on thin legal ground. If a Catholic religious entity chose to serve only Catholics, it would be flying in the face of the various Equal Opportunity and non-discrimination laws and regulations that force them to open up their institutes and universities, and the like to people of all religious faiths and convictions, even those with no faith or religious conviction. In order to comply with one Federal rule – this HHS so-called mandate – Church groups are forced to amend their guidelines for serving various groups and populations in a method that most agree would be discriminatory. Either that or else ‘cave-in’ to this Obama Administration HHS rule and thereby agree to discriminate against its own religious tenets and convictions. Good luck with all this, but I don’t think this Obama rule – which at this point is no more than a scare tactic to try to set a house against itself – would stand in the Courts when tested under the grounds of freedeom of religious belief and conviction.

  3. MD Catholic says:

    Why do I feel we are being set up?

  4. I am a Catholic, I have been a Catholic all my life and will remain a Catholic, this ruling to me makes absolute and perfect sense. If you are an organization that employs people of other faiths then you have an obligation to provide the basic health care that the law says you must provide. The religious exemption did not go away. It is not immoral for Protestants to use birth control and if they work for a Catholic hospital they should be allowed to have the proper coverage. If contraception is so completely wrong then 98% of Catholics are in deep trouble.

  5. Carol Caruthers says:

    As Catholics, we are being set up. My employee benefits news service says that the Obama Administration has delayed the implementation of this HHS Mandate from its previous July 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013. At least the electorate will be able to choose policymakers who will vote on it before it takes effect. The same website said that the Catholic electorate’s best chance for a ‘CHANGE’ in this governmental posturing is though political organization of the faithful. Bear in mind that the religious organizations cannot themseles become Political Action Committees. But we as the faithful can forestall all this litigation and other hoopla if we really try by praying that people of religious faith band together to besiege Congress about this. And if all else fails, there is an election coming in November during which time the people can make their last voice heard. The time to begin to mobilize is now!!! The The USCCB has won us this time . . . now the American Catholics and other people of faith must make the best use of that time. It’s time for political action. Let’s turn to the Courts as a last resort. Thank you.

  6. Frank Weathers says:

    The 7th thing you need to know:

    1,340 signed this petition at the White House yesterday, on Super Bowl Sunday.

    So far, over 21,000 people have signed it. Learn more about it here.

  7. Carol Caruthers says:

    According to the Employee Benefits Health & Welfare Benefits Plans Newsletter to which I subscribe: – the Obama Administration has delayed the effective date of this new HHS rule from the previously announced July 1, 2012, to health and welfare benefit plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2013. That’s after this November’s election. The article also says that the best way to make ‘change’ happen here is through the ballot box, though, in a nod to the USCCB. So, the USCCB got a year to mobilize its public – within its own limitations on political action. The Catholic people and all people of conscience have no such limitations on their political action. [I am a Blogger on www/, and I just now got my own Editor’s permission to ‘Blog’ about this one. It might take overnight or two nights, but it will be there soon.

    Thanks! God Bless You All!!!

  8. Frank Weathers says:

    Send me your article/post when it is up, por favor.

  9. Chris Sullivan says:

    On the emergency contraceptive Ella (ulipristal acetate), the medical evidence seems to be lacking that it actually does prevent implantation. It is suspected that it might but a 2010 study by Anna Glasier et al concluded that the dose actually given would be too low to prevent implantation (ie cause abortion). It is believed to work by preventing ovulation and fertilization.

    The rather bold statement that Ella (ulipristal acetate) is an abortifacient needs careful qualification as the medical evidence to establish this claim appears to be absent.

    See this CHA article from Ethical Currents


    God Bless

  10. Chris Sullivan says:

    Oops, that second link should be:

    God Bless

  11. I read/viewed the Mark Shields link. I sure hope he’s right about all this. He said, “The fallout is cataclysmic for the White House and for the president.” And his fellow pundit David Brooks agreed, saying, “Yes. I agree. I think that it is enormous. I think it was the most under-reported story of many months, because you have Catholics who are upset. You have evangelicals who are really upset.”

    I also read the link to Arturo Chavez in which he says Catholic Democrats have been betrayed by Obama. He says, “As the CEO of a religious institution directly affected by this ruling I must stand up and tell the administration that we will not comply with this unfair mandate.” Go to the link and read it. It’s an excellent essay.

  12. And Sebelius continues to lie through her teeth about the import of the new mandate. The bishops need to do something about her intransigent public support of legalized abortion and now this or they will all appear to be timid and ineffectual.

  13. This is actually a very interesting and thorough article on what may be motivating Sebelius, i.e., payback to the bishops for having previously criticized her and warned her not to approach communion.

  14. Deacon Steve says:

    So you think that it is ok to force Catholics to provide services that are in violation of their core beliefs and teachings? Should a Catholic Doctor be required to perform an abortion in direct conflict with his beliefs as a Catholic? Where do you draw the line at what the Government can tell us we have to do even if it conflicts with our religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution, which the President took and oath to uphold and defend not trample on and ignore when it is inconvenient. And put that 98% number in the proper context, the study said that 98% of women had used contraceptives at least once, not that 98% are currently using contraceptives.

  15. I cannot help but recall the story of the martyrdom of the mother and her sons –

  16. If you are an organization that employs people of other faiths then you have an obligation to provide the basic health care that the law says you must provide.

    A) Basic ‘health care’ includes abortion?

    B) Prior to Obama, organizations and people had the freedom to determine what your health insurance services would cover. You have now lost that freedom, as a unelected bureaucrats will be deciding what care you get and what is rationed.

  17. friscoeddie says:

    Sister M A Walsh says#1
    ‘The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals.’
    Parish schools, diocese’s HS, seminaries are all exempt. For her to just say schools is to mislead..Why to mislead is the question…

  18. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    From the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

    The HHS rule would allow (but not require) the HHS bureaucracy to establish exemptions from this mandate only for an extremely narrow category of “religious employers”: an organization qualifies as a “religious employer” only if its purpose is the “inculcation of religious values,” it “primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization, “and it “serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.” As the head of Catholic Charities USA observed, “the ministry of Jesus Christ himself” would not qualify for the exemption. Nor will Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic hospitals, food banks, homeless shelters, most Catholic schools, and even many or most diocesan offices, much less Catholic business owners who strive to conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs.

    Dcn. G.

  19. KWhite, I will pray for you so that you may see. The simple fact that a huge majority of the Bishops along with the Pope is saying you are wrong should give you a reason to doubt your “perfect sense.” The Church is the road map Christ has provided for all who would choose to follow to help us on our journey to heaven or hell. Any Catholic who is on the journey and is baptized in the faith should consult when there is any doubt as to the right path to heaven and will soon find if they are in dissent with Christ Church established under Peter and in line with the world led and infested by Satan, they need to do a strong inventory.

  20. Carol, you are right about this. it is time to unite behind our Bishops, Pope, and Church against the forces aligned with abortion. That evil wants to shut down religious rights in this country. But we need to do more than use political action, we need to unite with the Bishops and follow their lead and let evil know that they cannot take away or liberty or our faith. We need to pray for our Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priest, and religious that in this they will for once stand united against evil and use this as a vehicle for allowing the blind to see. Souls are at grave risk and so is our country.

  21. The forces of satan are going to fight this hard. We saw how they came out and attack SGK this week. Nothing gets in the way of satan desire for the destruction of life created by God and all the souls gained for hell who have their fingers connected to the holocuast in any way.

  22. friscoeddie says:

    @ Deacon Don…”religious employer” only if its purpose is the “inculcation of religious values,” it “primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization, “and it “serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.”.
    If the parochial schools and dioceses have not been estabished to ‘“inculcation of religious values,” etc what have they been they established for?
    I agree that there is so far no exemptions for CC , hospitals and universities . they receive enormous tax payer funding and hire many non-Catholics; but even these.. who knows about the final outcome for these … we got a year to lobby. so why has WW111 been declared?
    The Catholic parishes, parish schools. diocesan HS, diocese offices and seminaries.. have been exempt now…now, now …your quibbling not withstanding. So why the quibbling..???

  23. Frank Weathers says:
  24. naturgesetz says:

    friscoeddie, I think what you call WWIII is the lobbying that you note is the order of business for the coming year. Lots of people seem to have thought that the Obama administration would be much more accommodating. The administration has now shown its true colors, and its intransigence came as a shock. The strong reaction is occasioned both by the shock and by the realization that “pretty please” won’t work. The lobbying has to be vigorous and directed at Congress as well as the Obama administration, and the public has to be mobilized.

  25. Doug Indeap says:

    Our laws have long made health plans available to most people in the form of “employee benefits” received through their employers. Apart from political expediency, employers really did not need to be involved at all, but since the law put them in that position, they effectively have had a say in what types of plans are available to their employees. Some employers have even taken advantage of their position to tailor the plans they make available to fit their own religious views, rather than leave such matters to their employees.

    Now that the government has prescribed that health plans provide some services that do not conform to the religious views of some employers, those employers have complained they face a moral bind–that is they are forced to provide plans that include services they find objectionable. This moral bind could have been avoided if the law had not required employers to provide such qualifying health plans and, instead, simply made such plans readily and directly available to everyone, funding them, at least partly, through taxes or assessments paid by employers relieved of the burden of providing health plans. Had the government done that, employers would not face a moral bind and health plans would be widely available as the law intends.

    Oh. Wait. Does the current health law afford employers that very option? Why, yes, it does. Eureka! No moral bind! (And the assessments, by the way, are hardly prohibitive as some commentators suppose. Some employers, indeed, are considering that option on the basis that it is economically advantageous.)

    Problem solved–except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. The employer could not do that–unless he obtained an exemption from the law.

    Oh. Wait. Aren’t some employers clamoring for just such an exemption, so they can do just that? Why, yes, they are.

  26. “If contraception is so completely wrong then 98% of Catholics are in deep trouble.”

    A 100% of Catholics sin, a good deal even gravely sin at some point in their life. That Church-ran organization should fund their sins is a very different matter.

    There’s some evidence “self-pleasuring” reduces male risk of prostate cancer. And it’s of zero, so far as I know, risk for STDs. There’s also evidence that availability of, non-violent, porn correlates to a reduced rate of rape. And I’d guess 90% of male Catholics have used porn at sometime in their life. (Sadly me included, so I’m not getting “high and mighty.”) So should Catholic organizations that serve the public be required to provide porn for their male employees? If porn becomes more seriously argued as a part of “men’s sexual health”, which I think is already starting to happen, I could see that answer becoming “yes.” How would you feel about that?

  27. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Despite how some people are spinning this, this issue isn’t about birth control. It’s about the government insisting that a religious institution violate its ethics and teachings, and that it cooperate with something it has considered for centuries to be gravely immoral.

    And as for religious exemptions: as E.J. Dionne has noted, there is a perfectly sensible one for something like this in Hawaii, the president’s home state:

    But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.

    And it was offered a compromise idea to do just that by Melissa Rogers, the former chair of Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. (Rogers and I have worked together on religion and public life issues over the years, though I played no role in formulating her proposal.) In The Washington Post’s “On Faith” forum in October, she pointed to a Hawaii law under which “religious employers that decline to cover contraceptives must provide written notification to enrollees disclosing that fact and describing alternative ways for enrollees to access coverage for contraceptive services.” The Hawaii law effectively required insurers to allow uncovered individuals to secure this coverage on their own at modest cost

    Dcn. G.

  28. Chris Sullivan says:

    Dcn Greg,

    I’m finding it hard to see how this actually violates the conscience of the Bishops.

    1. The Bishops do not pay the premiums. The employees do as it is part of their wage.

    2. The Church does not teach that every act of contraception is immoral. Only those in “conjugal acts” (acts of genuine sexual love in marriage). There are an enormous number of cases where the use of contraception does not violate Catholic teaching.

    3. A number of Bishops (eg Bp Morlino in Madison) have looked into the matter more deeply and found that providing such insurance is so remote a material cooperation with evil for such a good end (provision of decent health care) that it does not violate Catholic conscience at all and can be licitly compiled with under the standard rules of Catholic moral theology.

    God Bless

  29. I sent an e-mail to Greg asking for an update. The original posting, now a year old, was accurate, but it does not include the most recent changes.

  30. Fiergenholt says:

    Deacon Tom (your 3/12 at 7:11am)

    If I were to make a bet, I would say that there are cooler heads at work on this whole issue “as we speak.” There is absolutely nothing wrong about saying that we like 99+% of the Affordable Health Care Act. That “less than 1% portion” we do not like can always be changed by later legislation or even a court ruling.

    Now there are two reasons why we are not hearing a lot about it these days: (1) the hot issue for the media is the papal conclave — the HHS mandate is an OLD issue; and (2) the Affordable Care Act was initially passed into law well before the 2012 election and political wags did their best to use the so called “HHS Mandate” as an issue to split the traditional Catholic-Democratic coalition of voters. It did not work that well but the unintended consequence of all that hyperbole was to drive a huge number of uncommitted women (and uncommitted Hispanics) over to voting Democratic.


  1. [...] This article summarizes the main points of contention quite well. [...]

  2. [...] this post, you should understand more clearly why the HHS Mandate from the Obama Administration is such an evil proclamation that violates our religious freedom [...]

  3. [...] actually read the bill and make my own opinion on it.  Here is a handy fact sheet from the Bishops “6 Things to Know About the HHS Mandate” and the Fact Sheet from HHS.  It has been incredibly difficult to wade through opinion and outrage [...]

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