State and local Catholic leaders expressed disappointment with the federal government’s decision to delay, but not change a narrow religious exemption from mandated health care coverage for contraception and sterilization procedures.
Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference:
“To be eligible, now an organization must meet four strict criteria, including the requirement that it both hire and serve primarily people of its own faith. This is extremely narrow and does not cover organizations such as Catholic schools, hospitals or charities.
“The rule considers fertility to be a disease to be prevented. The other services on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s list seek to prevent serious disease, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, AIDS. In addition, resources needed to provide basic health care to the uninsured will be used instead to subsidize IUDs and Depo-Provera for those who could afford to pay.
“The Bill of Rights says we are free to live by our religious beliefs. From our perspective this is an issue related to the First Amendment’s ‘free exercise’ clause and no doubt we’ll renew efforts to ask Congress to fix this. Current bills are HR 1179 and S 1467.”
Char Maaske, CFO, human relations director, Diocese of Davenport:
“This is a very complex issue and it will take time to examine the ramifications of this news. We will review the response of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Iowa Catholic Conference as well as the language of the ruling of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“It would affect the health insurance plans throughout the diocese. It is uncertain whether the chancery or schools would qualify for the religious exemption. We will be in conversation with our health insurer. This is a very disappointing decision as it is contrary to the rights of the Church under the First Amendment.”
Ann Young, VP, community and staff relations, Mercy Medical Center, Centerville
“We’re disappointed that the definition of a religious employer wasn’t broadened in the announcement.” Insurance through Mercy has never covered sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, she noted. “We make very clear when we hire employees that those things are not part of our coverage.” Mercy has made an inquiry on the issue to the Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, a health-care system that includes the Centerville hospital.
Jeanne Wonio, Respect Life/Pro-Life coordinator, Diocese of Davenport
“Provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act mandate that the insurance all Americans must purchase shall include coverage for sterilizations and contraception, some of which act as abortifacients. This rule violates the constitutional right to Freedom of Religion of Catholics. I encourage Catholics to speak out on this issue.”
To read the full story on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announcement, visit www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1200263.htm.