Bishops Want HHS Mandate Protections in Continuing Resolution

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 19, 2013   |   11:59AM   |   Washington, DC

The nation’s Catholic bishops want House Republicans to place conscience protections that help stop the egregious nature of the HHS abortion mandate in the continuing resolution the House must consider.

As LifeNews previously reported, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, sent a letter earlier this month outlining their concerns.

“Protection for conscience rights in health care is of especially great importance to the Catholic Church, which daily contributes to the welfare of American society through a network of schools, social services, hospitals and assisted living facilities,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote. “These institutions, which have been part of the Church’s ministry since the earliest days of the Republic, arose from religious conviction. They provide a substantial savings to communities and states throughout the nation, and we believe they contribute to the common good.”

“The legal protections which allow us to fulfill our obligation to serve others, without compromising our religious or moral convictions, are essential to the continued vitality of these ministries,” he said.

Now, a new report in CNS news indicates the House will need to consider another continuing resolution to fund the federal government, even though it previously approved one.

Cardinal O’Malley’s March 8 letter followed a letter Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore had sent to members of Congress on Feb. 15 asking them to add language to “the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government” that (like H.R. 940) would nullify the sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate and protect the conscience rights of health-care workers. Archbishop Lori chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

On March 6, the House Republican leadership called an initial floor vote on their version of the continuing resolution (CR) needed to fund the government through the rest of this fiscal year after the current CR expires on March 27. This House leadership CR did not include the language that Archbishop Lori requested. Instead, it permitted full funding of the sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate.

The Senate is expected to vote as early as Tuesday on its own version of the CR, which differs from the House version. Because the Senate version differs, the House must take the CR up again. Before the CR can become law, both houses must approve the same version.

As a result, there are now two pieces of legislation that Congress must deal with this fiscal year that belong in the “must pass” category cited by Cardinal O’Malley: (1) the CR to keep the government funded past March 27, and (2) the bill that will be needed to lift the limit on the federal debt after the current suspension of the debt limit expires on May 18.

If the Republican-controlled House were to agree to the request of the Catholic bishops and move this week to include H.R. 940 in the “must-pass” CR, the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama would have a choice to make. They could choose to preserve the administration’s power to force Catholics and other Christians to act against their faith, reject the House-passed CR, and thus risk a shut down of the federal government. Or they could choose to approve a House-passed CR incorporating H.R. 940 and permanently surrender the administration’s regulatory ambition to force Catholics and other Christians to buy and provide health-care plans that cover sterilizations, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.

If, instead, the Republican-controlled House fulfilled the Catholic bishops’ request by including H.R. 940 in a bill to lift the debt limit, the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama would face a similar choice. In this case, it would be between preserving the administration’s regulation forcing Catholics and other Christians to act against their faith and preserving the administration’s authority to continue borrowing money to pay the expenses the government is now running in excess of its revenues.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is chiding the national media for ignoring the HHS mandate battle Catholics and pro-life advocates are fighting.



“Two weeks have elapsed since a bill was introduced by Rep. Diane Black that challenges the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, and still no reporting on it by the mainstream media,” he said. “The bill, which has the explicit support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), provides conscience rights protections in health care. Specifically, the legislation would ensure that the ObamaCare regulation that forces employers to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception could not override the conscience rights of objecting parties.”

“When it comes to Catholic issues, the big dailies don’t lack for coverage. But on this dispute, which pits the bishops against the Obama administration, there has been a blackout,” he said. “The lone newspaper that has covered this subject is the Washington Times. Not surprisingly, the failure of these newspapers to report on this story accounts for the lack of coverage by the broadcast news programs, as well as cable TV.”

“Religious liberty should mean something even to those who are not observant. At stake is whether the federal government can impose a secular agenda on people of faith. Catholics, in particular, have been involved in this fight ever since the HHS mandate was introduced. For the media to ignore this issue is simply irresponsible,” he concluded.

ACTION: Contact members of the House and urge them to put protections against the HHS mandate in the continuing resolution bill.