NOW President: It’s ‘Poppycock’ to Say Catholic Institutions Have a Conscience

By Edwin Mora | January 24, 2012 | 6:06 PM EST

(CNSNews.com) – National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill says that it is "poppycock" for America's Roman Catholic bishops to say that Catholic institutions have a conscience. 

"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' claims that institutions can have consciences--that’s poppycock,” said O'Neill.

"[F]or a bunch of men who, forgive me, don’t get pregnant and who refuse to allow women into their own ranks of leadership, to presume to say that they can make a thing that has a conscience that trumps the conscience of an individual woman is simply laughable, but in a sad way,” she said.

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O'Neill's statement came in response to a reporter's question about NOW's support for a new federal regulation, issued under President Obama's health care law, that will require all American Catholics as well as Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable organizations to buy health insurance plans that cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including those that induce abortions.

The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion violate the natural law and that Catholics cannot be involved in them, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly said that the administration's sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate for all health-insurance plans would force Catholics to act against their faith and was an "unprecedented attack on religious liberty" that violated the 1st Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

On the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, CNSNews.com asked O’Neill: “You’ve criticized the Catholic Church for their opposition to the HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] regulation that would require that all health insurance cover sterilizations. Do you think the Obama administration has the right to tell faithful Catholics that they must pay for contraceptives even though that’s against their beliefs?”

O’Neill said: “In fact, the Obama administration has an obligation to allow every individual--individual faithful Catholic--to make her own mind up about whether she will use birth control and whether she will have an abortion. That’s the Obama administration’s obligation. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' claims that institutions can have consciences--that’s poppycock.”

O’Neill was outside the Supreme Court to counter-protest against pro-life activists who were participating in the annual March for Life, on the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide.

O'Neill further told CNSNews.com: “In fact, any restriction on women’s access to birth control violates that individual woman’s right to the freedom of religion under the First Amendment; violates her right to the equal protections of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment; violates her right to privacy under Griswold vs. Connecticut; violates her right not to be discriminated against in the workplace in violation of the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and violates her rights under the Pregnancy Act.”

NOW President Terry O'Neill. (AP Photo)

“So it violates the law, six ways from Sunday, to put any kind of restriction on it,” said O’Neill. “And for a bunch of men [Catholic bishops] who, forgive me, don’t get pregnant and who refuse to allow women into their own ranks of leadership, to presume to say that they can make a thing that has a conscience that trumps the conscience of an individual woman is simply laughable, but in a sad way.”

The HHS regulation is set to take effect on Aug. 1 of this year for individuals and businesses and on Aug. 1, 2013 for religious organizations including Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable organizations. 

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