The Department of Health and Human Services Friday issued a ruling that virtually all employers must offer sterilization and contraceptive services free of charge in their employees’ health insurance plans by August 1, 2013. The ruling would also cover abortifacients, or drugs that induce abortion. Churches, synagogues and mosques would still be exempt, but schools, hospitals and social service organizations affiliated with religious institutions would no longer be exempt. Catholic hospitals and universities would be forced to offer services to their employees for free that directly contradict the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic faith.
Not only is this ruling wrong, it is dangerous to our society and amounts to an out-an-out attack on the Catholic religion. Catholic hospitals, universities and social organizations do hire many employees who are not necessarily Catholic. These employees are not asked to practice Catholicism, only to do their jobs to the best of their ability. However, when they are hired by Catholic institutions, these employees are well aware of Catholic beliefs and teachings and could not reasonably expect their employer to contradict those teachings.
Why is this ruling so dangerous? Providing these services would be tantamount to asking Catholic institutions to be complicit in the prevention of life or in the possible murder of a human life, albeit one still in the mother’s womb. That is the equivalent of asking Catholic institutions to renounce their religious beliefs. For the Catholic Church, this is the line drawn in the sand, the line that cannot be crossed.
There is a practical objection that should be apparent to everyone. This ruling would be the beginning of a slippery slope. If our government can order this by law, what else could we be ordered to do? In pre-Revolutionary War days the British ordered Bostonians to house British officers in their homes. Friday’s ruling is just as much an affront to American freedom as that British Quartering Act. Who knows what might follow? Let’s not start that slippery slope.
This ruling must be changed to allow exemptions for all religious institutions, not just houses of worship. Employees at Catholic institutions were not forced to take jobs with their employers, nor are they forced to stay in their employ. They have a choice to seek employment elsewhere. Catholic institutions should not be forced to contradict their religious beliefs.
So what can be done?
First, President Obama must order his Secretary of Health and Human Services to retract this ruling in order to maintain the current exemption for all religiously affiliated institutions. What can we do? Call or write the White House and ask the President to do this. Do the same thing with your Congressman and Senators.
Freedom must be fought for or it is easily lost.
(Mike Spina is an author and retired journalist of 32 years. He is a former teacher in both Catholic and public schools.)