(CNSNews.com) - White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that American women “deserve” to have their employers buy them health insurance plans that cover sterlizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions, with no fees or co-pay, even if the employer is a Catholic or Catholic organization that adheres to the church teaching that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortifacients are morally wrong and that Catholics cannot be involved in them.
“I understand that there have been objections and that some people disagree with us and we are going to work with institutions that have concerns here,” Carney told reporters. “But I think it’s important to note here that we believe these services are important and that American women deserve to have access to that kind of insurance coverage regardless of where they work.”
On Jan. 20, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized a regulation, under the new health-care law, that requires all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions. The regulation has an exceedingly narrow exemption for “religious” employers that would effectively cover only an actual parish church—but not a Catholic hospital, university, or charitable organization. Catholic individuals, Catholic business owners and Catholic insurers would be compelled by the mandate to act against the teachings of their church.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told HHS in September that the regulation was an “unprecedented attack on religious liberty” and has urged the administration to rescind it in its entirety. Carney has said that President Barack Obama supports the regulation.
At Catholic Masses over the past two Sundays, Catholic priests across America have read letters from their local bishops decrying the mandate as a direct attack on the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and call on Catholics to resist it.
For example, in Catholic churches in Virginia on Sunday, priests read a letter from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo that said: “In so ruling, the administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.”
“We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law,” the bishops said.
White House Press Secretary Carney said Monday that the administration has worked to “find the appropriate balance” between upholding the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and requiring that all American women be given health insurance that covers sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients without fees or co-pay.
“We have worked to find the appropriate balance between religious beliefs and the need to provide preventive services to American women and to make sure that American women have access to those services regardless of where they work,” Carney said. “And we have carved out an exemption for churches and other houses of worship and we will work going forward with institutions where the employer is affiliated with a church for example but where many, many of the employees are of all faiths to find a way to ensure that the policy is implemented and all women have access to these services that also deals with the concerns that have been expressed.”