Pro-Life Groups, Catholic Bishops Blast Obamacare Recommendations

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 19, 2011   |   5:58PM   |   Washington, DC

Leading pro-life groups and the nation’s Catholic bishops are speaking out against today’s recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that the Obama administration make insurance companies include birth control and drugs that can cause abortions in preventative care.

Officials with Americans United for Life and the Family Research Council have condemned the IOM recommendations, which could force insurance enrollees to pay for birth control for other members of the health care program and could also have them paying higher premiums to pay for drugs can can cause abortions, like ella.

In a statement received, Jeanne Monahan, Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, responded to the decision, saying, FRC is expressing “strong opposition to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to the Department of Health and Human Services that health care plans be mandated to cover no cost-sharing contraceptives, including those that can destroy human embryos such as Plan B and Ella.”

“There are no conscience protections for health care plans that object to such coverage, or for health care providers in insurance plan networks who object to prescribing such drugs,” Monahan said.

“Several drugs have been approved by the FDA to be legally categorized as ’emergency contraceptives,’ despite functioning in ways that can destroy a preborn baby before or after implanting in the mother’s womb. A federal mandate to all insurance plans to include drugs such as ella essentially would mandate coverage for abortion. Inclusion of contraceptives also undermines conscience protections that President Obama promised would be maintained,” Monahan explained.

“Earlier this year, we sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius urging HHS not to mandate that abortion or contraceptives be covered free of charge under the new health care law. If HHS includes these mandates, the conscience rights of millions of Americans will be violated, including issuers of plans, providers who contract with such plans, and Americans who will pay for the cost of these services. HHS should focus on items and services that prevent actual diseases, and not include controversial services just to placate the abortion industry,” she concluded.

Last January, FRC sent a letter to U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting that HHS not recommend the inclusion of abortion or contraceptive drugs as mandatory covered benefits at no cost to patients. The letter claims mandating coverage of such drugs would violate the principles of conscience rights laws. To date FRC has received no response or even acknowledgement of the letter.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, indicates the nation’s Catholic leaders oppose the decision as well. He called the IOM decision one to “mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health insurance plans nationwide.”

Cardinal DiNardo added:

I strongly oppose the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation today that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate coverage of three particular practices in almost all private health plans: surgical sterilization; all FDA-approved birth control (including the IUD, “morning-after” pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella); and “education and counseling” promoting these among all “women of reproductive capacity.”

Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.  The IOM report claims it would have good reason to recommend mandatory coverage for surgical abortions as well, if such a mandate were not prevented by law.  But most Americans surely see that abortion is not healthy or therapeutic for unborn children, and has physical and mental health risks for women which can be extremely serious.  I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children.

The single largest abortion provider in the United States, Planned Parenthood, is celebrating the IOM’s report. If the HHS does likewise and implements its recommendations, these controversial practices will be mandated for all insurance plans – public and private – without co-pay from anyone receiving them. The considerable cost of these practices will be paid by all who participate in health coverage, employers and employees alike, including those who conscientiously object to Planned Parenthood’s agenda.

Without sufficient legal protection for rights of conscience, such a mandate would force all men, women and children to carry health coverage that violates the deeply-held moral and religious convictions of many.  This new threat to conscience makes it especially critical for Congress to pass the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Dan Boren (HR 1179). I am writing to all members of Congress to urge their co-sponsorship.

The IOM missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate.  I once again urge the Department of Health and Human Services to focus on the need of all Americans, including immigrants and the poor, for basic life-saving health coverage – not on mandating controversial elective practices in ways that undermine the good of women and children, the consciences of employers, employees and health plan providers, and the common good.