The announced HHS “compromise” requiring insurance companies, rather than religious institutions, to pay for abortion, contraception, and sterilization, may be a step in the right direction, but it still has huge problems that need addressing:
Caspar Isenmann, Betrayal of Christ (15th c.)
The Church will still be footing the bill: Fr. Andrew’s initial response to this was perfect: “Do insurance companies have magic money they don’t get from clients?” So Catholic institutions will still be paying for abortion, contraception, and sterilization, just slightly less directly. We went from paying for abortion to paying someone else to pay for abortion. That’s supposed to assuage our consciences?
- This makes it illegal to be a pro-life insurance company. Instead of violating the consciences of pro-life religious organizations, the government will now violate the consciences of pro-life insurance companies. So if you want to start a health insurance company, but don’t want to fund abortion, sterilization, and contraception, forget it.
- This still tramples the rights of businesses and individuals. Plenty of ordinary businesses operate consistent with their religious principles, from Chik-fil-a to Walmart. A bevy of individuals running smaller businesses fit this description as well. As announced, it appears that these employers are ineligible for any sort of exemption.
The Three Young Men in the Blazing Furnace (1575)
This still gives the HHS the right to favor certain religious institutions over others. One of the most troubling (and obviously unconstitutional) aspects of the HHS mandate was actually the exception itself. As Bishop William Lori explained in a Washington Post editorial, “for religious institutions to claim this exception, they must serve primarily members of their own church, synagogue or mosque, and so choose not to feed or clothe, heal or educate practically anyone of another faith or creed.” The supposed compromise actually makes this worse: it provides this compromise for certain “non-exempt religious groups,” reinforcing the government’s ability to favor specific religious groups over others. Specifically, it favors non-evangelizing religious groups over evangelizing ones.
Today, at Mass, Cardinal Wuerl pointed out the absurdity of forcing Catholic homeless shelters to stop people at the door to ensure they’re Catholic before helping them. But the USSCB has pointed out a greater absurdity: that even “Jesus and his apostles would not have been ‘religious enough’ for the exemption, since they healed and served people of different faiths. The exemption provides no protection at all to sponsors and providers of health plans for the general public, to pro-life people who own businesses, or to individuals with a moral or religious objection to these procedures.”
- This is divide and conquer. Let’s not be naive. When even the Administration’s senior officials deny that it’s really a compromise, it’s not a compromise. Instead, the Obama Administration is seeking to fracture the united opposition to the HHS Mandate from Catholics, Evangelicals, and people who care about religious freedom. As a divisive tactic, it seems to be working.
The Institute of Medicine committee that compiled the “preventive services” list for HHS said in its report that unintended pregnancy is “a condition for which safe and effective prevention and treatment” need to be more widely available – setting the stage for mandated coverage of abortion as the “treatment” when prevention fails. Note that women who suffer from infertility, which really is an illness, were ignored in this mandate.
This isn’t an olive branch. It’s a smallpox blanket. It looks like this fight is far from over.
Update: The USCCB, after reviewing the proposed compromise, rejected it for all of the reasons listed above.