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Six things to know about the HHS mandate

Six things to know about the HHS mandate February 6, 2012

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.

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