Bishops asking Catholics to Back Bill
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is asking all Catholics to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to co-sponsor and support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467), a bill that was introduced in Congress "to ensure that those who participate in the market for health insurance 'retain the right to provide, purchase or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.'" To contact Congress, send an e-mail through the USCCB, or go to www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. Or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
The bill was created because of a Jan. 20 mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that reaffirmed a rule that nearly all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients and contraception. The exemption provided for religious employers failed to cover the majority of faith-based organizations, including Catholic hospitals, universities and charities.
In response, U.S. bishops, including Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, disapproved. "There was no conscience protection whatsoever for insurers or individuals with religious or moral objections to being forced to help pay the cost of these abortions and sterilizations. This is a direct attack on religion and our First Amendment rights," said Bishop Taylor in a Jan. 25 letter. Read his letter. The diocese's health care ethicist also wrote about the rule in Arkansas Catholic.
Even though modifications were made by President Barrack Obama on Feb. 10, the rule "still forces (religious employers) to pay for services that violate their religious convictions," according to a USCCB bulletin insert released Feb. 15. See the insert in English or Spanish or read the U.S. bishops' response to learn more. Additional information is provided and updated frequently on the USCCB Conscience Protection webpage. To see what Arkansas legislators said, read the Feb. 18 issue of Arkansas Catholic.