In light of news announcing that contraceptives would be covered by insurance plans as per a mandate issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Catholics are claiming that the mandate is “an unwarranted attack on religion” that “ignores this nation’s foundations which were built upon freedom of conscience and freedom of religion” according to the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania in a recent release.
Msgr. Stuart Swetland, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education says, “This health insurance mandate is potentially very damaging to Catholic higher education, both in its immediate impact on the moral climate of colleges and universities and its broader implications for the Constitutional rights of religious employers” and “The administration seems to be telling Catholic institutions that the only way they can operate in their America is to abandon our core ethical beliefs.”
These sentiments from Catholics surrounding inclusion of contraceptives in insurance plans are similar to the concerns raised when Catholic charities who accepted governmental funding were required to provide services to homosexuals. Similarly, Catholics framed this issue as an ‘attack on religion’ and ‘forcing’ of Catholics to compromise their beliefs.
The responses raised by Catholics in response to contraceptives being added to insurance plans are problematic, according to supporters of the mandate. Some Catholics note that the mandate including contraceptives violates the consciences of providers, but what about the consciences of those receiving healthcare who wish to use contraceptives?
Jon O’ Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, notes, “In allowing religious institutions to refuse to include contraceptive services in the health insurance plans they offer their employees, the Obama administration has once again sided with the Catholic bishops over the needs of women and their families. The multi-billion dollar Catholic health care industry has a lot of influence with this administration, influence that it has now used to allow religious institutions to ride the roughshod over the needs of their workers. Not only that, it ignores the consciences of those who decide that to use a modern method of family planning is what is best for them and their families.”
If the government legislates (or fails to legislate) because of what some Catholics may believe, and fails to offer contraceptives to those who wish to use the services, there appears to be a much greater problem that what opponents of the mandate suggest. Instead of Catholics being concerned about their version of morality or whether or not they wish to use contraceptives, they should be concerned about what healthcare recipients want – for that is the conscience that should be of importance. If Catholics opposed to contraceptives do not wish to provide contraceptives – or provide any given item — to those who want contraceptives, they should not enter the healthcare profession to begin with or operate separately from the government. The healthcare recipient, rather than the provider, should be the primary concern.