HHS mandate presents problems of principle, practicality, bishop says
Published: February 24, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate and its extremely narrow religious exemption present problems both of principle and of practicality, according to the bishop who heads the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., said in a Feb. 23 telephone interview with Catholic News Service that the "accommodation" announced Feb. 10 by President Barack Obama represents "an intrusion into the internal life of the church that we think is a violation of religious liberty." On a practical level, he added, the mandate as revised by Obama "does not really address how we are organized" as church institutions. "It seems to me that for the government to ask us to override our teachings, whether popular or not, there has to be a compelling government interest," Bishop Lori said. But he said 90 percent of insurers already cover contraceptives, with companies that object to contraception representing a "relatively small number" of employers. "The insurance plans that are in question are good benefits packages, but they don't include these things that are abundantly available elsewhere and at a reasonable cost, despite what is being said," he added. Obama's revised mandate says religious employers could decline to cover contraceptives if they were morally opposed to them, but the health insurers that provide their health plans would be required to offer contraceptives free of charge to women who requested such coverage. Bishop Lori questioned why the federal government would compel coverage of contraception but leave other decisions on "essential health services," such as coverage of high blood pressure medication or HIV/AIDS drugs, to the states under the health reform law. "It's hard to see how that is a compelling government interest" when other important treatment decisions are left to the states, he said.
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