Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chiseling away at freedom of conscience

I didn't pick up a bulletin at Church on Sunday, but when I went for choir practice I did find one, and realized that I had missed something really important in that weekly bulletin that usually only provides Mass times and pious reflections.
Maybe you missed it, too.

It was an information piece from the US Bishops Conference describing the requirements of a ruling from the US Department of Health and Human Services. According to this "interim final rule," almost all health plans in the country (and this includes religious employers and religious insurers) must include coverage, without co-pay or any cost-sharing, for contraception and sterilization, including the abortion pills RU-486 and Ella. Until now, no private health plan has been required to cover such things.

The religious exemption is so narrow as to be meaningless.

This means that the government, as part of "health care reform," is effectively abrogating conscience rights in the whole sphere of medicine, and attempting to coerce religious institutes into financing morally repugnant "services." (More info on this podcast.) Even if a majority of Catholics personally ignore Church teaching in this area, they should be able to recognize what an intrusion this is on the part of the federal government.

You can be sure that this is only the beginning, especially since the current administration and its functionaries habitually refer to teachings regarding the sanctity of marriage as bigotry (see this cable from the US diplomats in Poland) and as “sexual orientation discrimination," leaving Catholics and other Christians vulnerable to lawsuits and legal persecution simply for acting in accordance with their religious convictions.

There is one week left to respond to the HHS ruling, and it couldn't be easier.

It wouldn't hurt to follow up via "snail mail" with a message like this (to both HHS and your Representative):
Pregnancy is not a disease, and drugs and surgeries to prevent it are not basic health care that the government should require all Americans to purchase. Please remove sterilization and prescription contraceptives from the list of “preventive services” the federal government is mandating in private health plans. It is especially important to exclude any drug that may cause an early abortion, and to fully respect religious freedom as other federal laws do. The narrow religious exemption in HHS’s new rule protects almost no one. I urge you to allow all organizations and individuals to offer, sponsor and obtain health coverage that does not violate their moral and religious convictions.

Mailing address for HHS:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: CMS-9992-IFC2
P.O. Box 8010
Baltimore, MD 21244-8010
In writing to your Representative, be sure to urge support of the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act" (HR-1179) and to your Senators, support of the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act" (S. 1467).
For more information, fact sheets and so on, follow the links throughout this page.

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