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Congressional hearing on health care law, conscience protection

Catholic World News - November 02, 2011

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has thanked Rep. Joseph Pitts for scheduling a November 2 hearing entitled “Do New Health Law Mandates Threaten Conscience Rights and Access to Care?” Pitts, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, is an evangelical Protestant.

Scheduled to testify in favor of conscience protection are William Cox of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association, and Jane Belford, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington. Democrats on Rep. Pitts’s committee have invited Jon O’Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, to testify at the hearing.

Health reform legislation passed by Congress in March 2010 “excluded longstanding protections for conscience rights on abortion” and “created new open-ended mandates for ‘essential health benefits’ and ‘preventive services’ to be included in almost all private health plans, without any provision for individuals or institutions that may have a moral or religious objection to particular items or procedures,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a November 1 letter to Rep. Pitts. “This last deficiency in the statute has now been exploited by the Department of Health and Human Services to impose a nationwide mandate for coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs (including at least one abortion drug similar to RU-486), sterilization procedures, and education and counseling to promote these to ‘all women with reproductive capacity.’”

“Under the new HHS mandate, Catholic organizations committed to their moral and religious teaching will have no choice but to stop providing health care and other services to the needy who are not Catholic, or stop providing health coverage to their own employees,” he continued. “This is an intolerable dilemma, and either choice will mean reduced access to health care.”

Cardinal DiNardo added:

Even recent findings that hormonal contraceptives can heighten women’s risk of contracting and transmitting the AIDS virus has not made any difference to this campaign – although the “preventive services” package of benefits is, among other things, supposedly aimed at preventing AIDS. Is the drive to maximize contraceptive coverage, even among those who do not want it, such an urgent national priority that it transcends concerns about religious liberty, our nation’s “First Freedom,” as well as concerns about women’s health and about access to basic health care for men and women alike?

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