Kathleen Gilbert


Comment period for federal birth control mandate ends tonight

Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 30, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Obama administration’s plan to force virtually all private insurers, including faith-based employers, to offer free abortifacient birth control is open for public comment until midnight tonight.

The mandate defining birth control as an essential “preventive service” under the federal health care reform law has been strenuously opposed by U.S. Catholic bishops and Catholic universities who say the new regulation’s religious exemption is dangerously narrow.

“Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God,” said USCCB president Cardinal Daniel Dinardo in a Sept 26 statement. “The ‘religious employer’ exemption offered by the Department is so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one.”

In a letter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday, University of Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins expressed bewilderment that the school President Obama once visited with a promise to draft a “sensible conscience clause” was on the brink of being forced to offer students free birth control and sterilizations.

“May I suggest that this is not the kind of ‘sensible’ approach the president had in mind when he spoke here,” wrote Jenkins, who noted that the conscience clause drew from the narrowest known state definition of “religious employer,” something unheard of in federal law.

In addition, the bishops point out that the birth control mandate, which includes emergency contraception such as Plan B and Ella, really amounts to an abortion mandate: both drugs are known to be capable of killing an unborn child days after conception. Ella, a drug indicated for use up to five days after intercourse, is in the same chemical family as abortion drug RU-486.

“The pro-life majority of Americans – Catholics and others – would be outraged to learn that their premiums must be used for this purpose,” said DiNardo in August.

The mandate mirrored a report commissioned this summer by the non-governmental Institutes of Medicine (IOM), which recommended full coverage of contraception as “preventive care,” and even hinted that surgical abortion would have been weighed but for federal law. The committee behind the recommendations was in large part populated by professionals connected to abortion lobbies including NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and reportedly stacked “open information-gathering sessions” for the report with pro-abortion experts. (Read more from HLI America’s Arland Nichols here.)

A letter signed by 18 Catholic Colleges and Universities was sent to the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday objecting to the mandate.

To contact:

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