NARAL: Force Religious Groups to Cover Birth Control, Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 8, 2011   |   12:50PM   |   Washington, DC

Reacting to last week’s decision by the Obama administration to adopt new guidelines forcing insurance companies to cover birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under Obamacare, NARAL is pushing the decision further.

As LifeNews reported, the Obama administration has approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.

The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.

The Obama administration’s decision also presented significant conscience concerns for Catholic and pro-life groups who don’t want to be forced to pay for insurance coverage for employees that includes birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

Now, NARAL is opposing even the very limited conscience protections the Obama administration included in its decision and is promoting a campaign to get its pro-abortion members to ask the Health and Human Services Department to reject any protections for religious employers who don’t want to be forced to provide insurance coverage for employees that includes birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

It is asking its members to sign a statement to HHS saying, “I strongly support the new policy requiring health-insurance plans to cover birth control without a copay, CMS-9992-IFC2. Thank you for this important improvement to women’s health care. I also want you to know that I am concerned that certain religious employers may be allowed to opt out of the requirements. All women should have access to contraceptive coverage, regardless of where they work.”

In a comment preceding the message, NARAL informs its members, “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has accepted” the guidelines favoring birth control and abortion drugs.

“This is such a tremendous leap forward. But there is one piece left undone: certain religious employers may be allowed to opt out of the requirement,” NARAL says. “It’s up to us to stand up for all women who use birth control. HHS is accepting comments on this refusal provision, and we have a brief window of time to weigh in. Send a message to HHS now to say that all women should have access to contraceptive coverage, regardless of their employer.”

NARAL’s message urging its members to ask the Obama administration to trample on conscience rights for religious employers makes no mention of the ella abortion-causing drug that is included in the Obamacare guidelines the Obama administration adopted.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sharply criticized the Obama administration’s “preventive services” mandate that it says “requires health plans to cover female surgical sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the FDA as contraceptives, including drugs which can attack a developing unborn child before and after implantation in the mother’s womb.”

“Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“For example, under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” Cardinal DiNardo continued.  “Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public?  Health care reform should expand access to basic health care for all, not undermine that goal.”

“The Administration’s failure to create a meaningful conscience exemption to the preventive services mandate underscores the need for Congress to approve the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” the Cardinal said.   That bill (H.R. 1179), introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), would prevent mandates under the new health reform law from undermining rights of conscience.

Meanwhile, Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, added that the new health plan guidelines announced today by the Obama Administration would significantly violate the religious liberty of Catholic colleges and universities and the families who entrust students to Catholic education.

“The HHS guidelines would force Catholic colleges to violate the law or violate the Catholic faith,” he told LifeNews. “Neither option is acceptable.”

“It appears that Catholic colleges will be forced into the untenable position of helping students as well as employees obtain free contraceptives and sterilization,” Reilly said.  “Our religious freedom is under attack.”

Reilly said the “guidelines include a very narrow religious exemption that applies primarily to churches, but would likely not exempt most Catholic colleges and universities that serve students regardless of their religious beliefs.

The guidelines exempt a religious employer that “(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization…” Such language has been used in California and other states to ensure that most religious organizations are not exempted from contraceptive mandates.

“The HHS language is ambiguous and likely to be interpreted with a bias against Catholic agencies,” Reilly said.  “For instance, does a college ‘primarily’ serve Catholic students if more than half the students are Catholic?  75 percent?  What is the threshold?  It’s left to the discretion of federal bureaucrats who have demonstrated repeated disregard for Catholic institutions.”

“Meanwhile, this only increases the importance of Catholic colleges ensuring a strong and consistent Catholic identity, including clear ‘hiring for mission’ policies, so that they can demand First Amendment protection from unfair laws and regulations,” Reilly added.

A Rasmussen Reports poll found Americans strongly oppose the decision by the Obama administration force insurance companies to cover birth control (and abortion drugs) in the Obamacare health care plan. It did not include mention of the ella drug — billed as a morning after pill but a drug that actually causes an abortion of a unique human being days after conception. Still, a plurality of Americans opposes the requirement the Obama administration put forward and they tell Rasmussen that they would like to have the option of picking their health plans based on cost and what coverage they need.

The Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American adults showed 39 percent believe health insurance companies should be required to cover all government approved contraceptives for women, but 46% don’t think they should be. Another 15% are undecided.