Blog Post

Bishops Issue Stinging Condemnation of HHS Plan to Mandate Contraceptive Coverage

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a statement that strongly opposes the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health insurance plans nationwide. In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo cited three particular practices that the IOM wants to be covered - surgical sterilization, all FDA-approved birth control which includes the IUD, "morning after pills" and the abortion inducing Ella, and "education and counseling" that will promote these practices to all "women of reproductive capacity." "Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible," he states.  "The IOM report claims it would have good reason to recommend mandatory coverage for surgical abortions as well, if such a mandate were not prevented by law.  But most Americans surely see that abortion is not healthy or therapeutic for unborn children, and has physical and mental health risks for women which can be extremely serious.  I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children." He correctly points out that the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is celebrating the IOM's recommendation because if these practices are approved, "the considerable cost of these practices will be paid by all who participate in health coverage, employers and employees alike, including those who conscientiously object to Planned Parenthood’s agenda." On the same day as DiNardo issued his statement, Cecil Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued her own in which she hailed the IOM recommendation, saying it "brings us a step closer to ensuring that all newly insured women under the health care reform law will have access to prescription birth control without out-of-pocket expenses. This would be a tremendous stride forward for women's health in this country." Agencies such as Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups typically fight against conscience rights because of the harm these could do to their bottom line. However,  DiNardo warns that without sufficient legal protection, "such a mandate would force all men, women and children to carry health coverage that violates the deeply-held moral and religious convictions of many." This new threat to conscience makes it especially critical for Congress to pass the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Dan Boren (HR 1179), he said, and informed the HHS that he is writing to all members of Congress to urge their co-sponsorship of this bill. "The IOM missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate," he concluded.  "I once again urge the Department of Health and Human Services to focus on the need of all Americans, including immigrants and the poor, for basic life-saving health coverage – not on mandating controversial elective practices in ways that undermine the good of women and children, the consciences of employers, employees and health plan providers, and the common good." © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®