Bishops Refuse to Comply With Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 30, 2012   |   6:54PM   |   Washington, DC

At least three Catholic bishops have said they will not comply with the mandate the Obama administration put in place recently in Obamacare that will force religious employers to pay for birth control, contraception and drugs that may cause abortions in their health care plans.

The Obama Administration issued a statement re-iterating the “contraceptive mandate” requiring all insurance providers cover the full range of FDA-approved drugs and devices would remain intact. This mandate, originally proposed in August, includes drugs that work after conception to destroy life rather than prevent it. The statement included a postponement of one year for religious groups that do not already carry contraceptives and additionally would not be exempted under last year’s narrow definition of “religious employer.”

The mandate not only violates such existing conscience protections on abortion such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment (in so far as Plan B and Ella are covered), but also violates the principles of the Church Amendments which protects conscience rights for those who object to contraceptives and other services on moral or religious grounds.

Responding to it, Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix announced that his diocese will not comply with the mandate and Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, agreed to refuse to comply.

They issued similar language in public statements saying they would not do so.

They said: “We cannot – we will not comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their prosperity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope she can trust on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.”

Meanwhile, a total of 86 bishops who have spoken out against the Obama/HHS mandate publicly. In some cases, the bishops had priests in parishses throughout their diocese read the statements all diocesan Masses (bold). According to Thomas Peters of here are some of the bishops have are opposed to the mandate and have urged their parishoners to contact Congress and the Obama administration to oppose it.

Also, an expected lawsuit against the mandate could find itself moving all the way up to the Supreme Court which, as the Los Angeles Times notes, “recently affirmed — in a 9-0 ruling — that the 1st Amendment gives special leeway to religious employers.”

Per the Times:

Two colleges have sued to challenge the contraception rule. They are Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic school in North Carolina, and Colorado Christian University near Denver. The Catholic Conference has not yet decided on joining a lawsuit, but “the bishops are eager to pursue every lawful means to stop this mandate,” said Anthony R. Picarello Jr., the conference’s general counsel.

The legal challenge got a major boost nearly three weeks ago, when the high court strengthened the Constitution’s protection for religious freedom. In a 9-0 defeat for the administration, the justices said the 1st Amendment gives “special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations” in decisions about their employees.

At issue was a clash between the rights of church employers and the government’s interest in protecting the rights of employees. The administration had backed a job-bias suit filed by a teacher who was fired by a Lutheran school. Churches and church schools are not exempt from civil rights claims, the administration argued.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Constitution does not allow for “government interference with an internal church decision that affects the faith and mission of the church itself.” He called the administration’s view “extreme” and “remarkable.” Legal scholars called his opinion the court’s most important for religious freedom in two decades.

The mandate has upset pro-life groups that don’t want to be forced to provide health insurance coverage that pays for contraception, birth control drugs, or drugs like the morning after pill, Plan B and ella that can cause abortions in some circumstances. They have objected to a very narrow set of exemptions for religious groups that don’t adequately allow all faith-based organizations to opt out of providing such coverage.

The administration initially 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.

Jeanne Monahan of FRC says the current opt out is not sufficient.

“On September 30th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received thousands of negative comments related to the interim final rule published on August 3rd where all insurance plans were informed that they must cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay,” Monahan explains. “A very narrowly defined conscience exemption for religious organizations was included which, in essence, covers only places of worship and was originally drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a bill in California.”

“HHS offered a fig leaf of conscience protection for certain churches that fulfill very specific criteria. However, religious groups that provide social services, engage in missions work to people of different religious faiths, religious health insurance companies, let alone religious health care providers and individuals in such health plans are not protected from any discrimination whatever. The new rule will force many Americans to violate their consciences or refrain from participating in health care insurance, further burdening an already costly system,” Monahan said.

“For an administration that promised to protect conscience laws in effect now, this decision completely ignores opinion, research and science that do not support a pro-abortion ideology. In the words of one of the committee members who objected to the IOM recommendations, the ‘evaluation for evidence lacked transparency … the process tended to result in a mix of objective and subjective determination through the lens of advocacy,” Monahan continued. “This administration is promoting mandates that will violate the consciences of millions.”

The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.