MADISON, WI, September 7, 2011 ( – The leaders of Wisconsin’s five Roman Catholic dioceses have written the Obama administration saying that they “strongly oppose” the federal preventive services mandate that will require insurance companies to cover contraception, including “emergency contraception” such as Ella that can cause abortions.

In their September 2 letter to United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the Wisconsin bishops said they regret that the regulations undermine “our teaching that human fertility is not a disease.”

Instead, fertility “is a gift, which exercised responsibly, allows humanity to prosper,” the bishops said. 

The bishops also pointed out that in its current form, the rule’s effect is to “so constrain religious activity as to diminish the religious liberty of Catholics in Wisconsin and the United States.”

They stress that the mandated full coverage of sterilization, contraception, and related counseling services contains only a very narrow conscience exemption that will not apply to Catholic universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations that serve the general public.

The bishops recalled that Catholics in the United States, from the time they arrived, “have contributed to the common good” irrespective of faith in schools, hospitals, and charities.

“America is the richer for this faith-inspired witness and its many contributions to the general welfare,” they said. “Yet, our witness – and the public good that flows from it – is compromised when we are compelled to act in ways inconsistent with our values.  This mandate does just that.”

“As written, the mandate compels our institutions to either act in ways inconsistent with our values or forces them to retreat from serving the most vulnerable.” 

They also point out that “the mandate’s inclusion of drugs like Ella, which can cause chemical abortion, goes well beyond the stated goal of preventing unplanned pregnancies since it fosters the taking of innocent human life. As such, the mandate negates the Administration’s assurances that abortion would not become a feature of federal health care reform.”

The leaders of Wisconsin’s five Roman Catholic dioceses pointed out that the mandate denies respect for rights of religious liberty and conscience in matters of health care, recognized in the Church Amendment of 1973, the law governing Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and federal legislation for combating AIDS in developing nations.

The bishops concluded that health care reform “should expand, not restrict,” the ability of employers and providers to offer the best possible care. 

“It should provide Americans with real health care options that support and do not undermine their most cherished values,” they said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has sharply criticized the mandate. In her critique, USCCB Communications Director Sr. Mary Ann Walsh blogged last month that HHS must think Catholics and other religious groups are “fools.”

A group of Catholic physicians has launched an online petition requesting the Obama administration to immediately withdraw the mandate.

HHS is accepting public comments on the exemption from the mandate for religious employers until October 1, 2011.

Contact Info:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Attention:  CMS-9992-IFC2
P.O. Box 8010
Baltimore, MD 21244-8010!documentDetail;D=HHS-OS-2011-0023-0002