In a joint letter to Connecticut Catholics, Bishops Henry Mansell, of Hartford, William Lori, of Bridgeport, and Michael Cote, of Norwich, urged all Catholics and concerned citizens to speak up for religious liberty by writing to the Department of Health and Human Services and its Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, as well as senators and representatives to ensure “federal regulations do not violate Americans’ moral and religious convictions.”
The issue that has the Connecticut bishops, and bishops nationwide speaking up, is the “interim final rule” of Obama’s new health care reform law that would provide 100% coverage for contraception and sterilization, including emergency contraception drugs such as Plan B and Ella, both abortifacients, drugs that have the ability to cause early abortions by preventing implantation. Forcing Catholic institutions to fund health plans with this coverage, as well as forcing Catholic taxpayers to contribute, is a violation of conscience, and their religious freedom.
Family Institute of Connecticut responds
In an attempt to quell the outrage, a narrow exemption has been created, exempting only institutions that exclusively hire and service Catholics for religious purposes. This would not include social services, schools and hospitals that service the community-at-large, and not just Catholics. Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC) explains, “[The] religious exemption [is] written so narrowly that it would redefine what qualifies as a religious institution in the U.S. and push faith out of the public realm altogether.”
The Family Institute of Connecticut has an action page complete with form letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius.
Respect for Rights of Conscience Act
In March 2011, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was introduced. It would prevent any provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from requiring a health plan to provide, or even refer patients to, a health service that they find religiously objectionable. All U.S. Bishops support this bill, which has only been introduced in the House, yet has no similar legislation pending in the Senate. Senator Richard Blumenthal has agreed to support it, should it come to the Senate floor. “I respect the religious beliefs of all Americans, and believe that we must enable individuals to choose the most comprehensive and affordable health care plan for their personal needs,” says Blumenthal.
Make your voice heard
The deadline for comments and objections closes at 11:59 p.m. on September 30. Wolfgang encourages Connecticut Catholics to write. “Please don’t let it happen. Help us fight this. This one’s big, people.”
Visit the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Page here
Email HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius directly at Kathleen.Sebelius@hhs.gov
Send a form letter to Health and Human Services here
Find your legislators here
Join the Facebook group here