DANVILLE, KY, October 12, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life groups, including the country’s Catholic bishops, are saying Vice President Joe Biden lied when he flat-out denied that the Obama administration’s HHS mandate forces religious institutions to pay for birth control during Thursday’s vice presidential debate.
“No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise—including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, or any other hospital—none has to either refer for contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide,” Biden said, adding emphatically, “That is a fact.”
The answer came in response to accusations from Republican Paul Ryan that the Obama administration is “assaulting the religious liberties of this country.”
“They’re infringing on our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals,” Ryan said. “Our churches should not have to sue the federal government to maintain their religious liberties.”
In a statement issued today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) charged that Biden’s “fact” is anything but factual.
The USCCB reiterated its opposition to the extremely narrow religious exemption to the controversial mandate, which it pointed out does not extend to any of the hospitals Biden mentioned, or any “religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.”
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The bishops also addressed the so-called “accommodation,” which purported to deal with religious freedom concerns by mandating that in the case of religious employers, their health insurance companies will be required to offer birth control, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs for “free.”
The accommodation was panned by critics as nothing more than a transparent accounting gimmick.
Religious employers “will have to serve as a vehicle [for birth control coverage], because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage,” said the USCCB statement, “and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients.”
“They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.”
Immediately following the debate the head of the Susan B. Anthony List issued a statement charging that Biden had “grossly misled” the public on the nature of the mandate.
Biden simply “brushed over legitimate objections by people of all faiths to this administration’s unprecedented assault on religious organizations and individuals,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser.
The HHS mandate has been a flashpoint of opposition to the Obama administration ever since its announcement in January. It has been challenged in dozens of lawsuits and provoked a series of massive, nationwide protests, as well as the Catholic bishops’ national “Fortnight for Freedom.”
It has also helped forge what may very well be an unprecedented level of cooperation between Christians of various denominations in a united front to preserve the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.